Feb 10, 2011
In the past two or three years, whenever I visited India, time and again, much to my surprise and annoyance sometimes, I have been asked the same question by my friends and relatives: What's all this about Indian students being attacked in Australia? Are they racial attacks or just the media hype back here in India? While I did my best to answer these questions, on some occasions I struggled to come up with a satisfactory reply.
This question popped up this time as well, when I visited Mumbai and Mangalore last month. Soon after my return to Sydney last week, and after pondering over the subject for sometime and having done some research into the matter, I thought I would clarify the whole issue and put it in perspective through this forum to the best of my ability and knowledge, so that the entire matter could be put to rest, once and for all.
Before I continue with the main topic, I would like to digress a little bit and briefly touch upon the history of Indian immigration to Australia. No, the Indians did not come to this country either as war refugees or by boats as asylum seekers, as migrants from so many other countries did. Rather, they came in mainly as professional migrants and as part of family union, which should be a matter of great pride to all Indians.
About 40 years ago, in the 1970s, the Australian government opened up migration to Indians, when quite a number of doctors, nurses and teachers came to Australia. It was also about 30 years ago, during the late 1970s and early 1980s, following the tech and engineering boom, that many IT professionals, computer engineers and accountants started moving into the country. This was simultaneously followed by the arrival of many tool and die makers, machinists, turners and fitters, welders etc who were recruited by the Australian employers from reputed Indian companies and organisations like TELCO, Larsen & Toubro, MICO, HMT, HAL and Ordnance Factories. It was easy pick and readymade human resources market for Australia as they enjoyed the benefits of a fully qualified, well-trained and experienced technical and professional staff.
However, with the local manufacturing industry shrinking over the years mainly due to the high cost of labour and overheads, and with the availability of cheap imports, progressively, first from countries like Taiwan, Malaysia and Indonesia, and later and now largely from China, the demand for such engineering and technical staff has disappeared altogether.
Meanwhile, quite a few Indian migrants also came over to Australia from the Gulf countries during the 1980s and 1990s (the trend continues), after having worked there for a number of years. These migrants from the Middle-east found rather an easy passage compared to their counterparts in India since they brought along with them a substantial amount of money, which enabled them to settle down in the new country fairly comfortably.
All these, the so-called Indian professional migrants, and their families, have since settled down and assimilated well into the Australian society, and have, in fact, contributed a lot to the local economy and culture in several ways.
Basically, the Indians have built up a good name and reputation here in Australia and have been generally liked by everyone, with their education, good English and good conduct. They have also assimilated easily with the Australian society and cultivated the local way of life. It was only a few years ago when the Indian students started coming into Australia in large numbers, and when these students took up a lot of local jobs, that quite a bit of resentment and uneasiness set in with the Australian community, especially amongst the unemployed youth and juveniles, and so, the trouble started brewing in, as the following paragraphs will reveal.
Since the year 1998, there has been a significant increase in the number of Indian students arriving in Australia. These students pay much higher tuition fees and thus bring in the much-needed income to the Australian universities. Incidentally, income from the foreign students fees is the second highest export revenue earned by the Australian government, after coal and minerals export.
The various incidents of violence and attacks on Indian community that took place over the last couple of years have nothing to do with race or racial issues. Rather, it is just a matter of dislike being felt lately by the Australian people, especially in the cities of Melbourne and Sydney, towards the Indian students, who have been studying there in large numbers, and following are the main reasons that led to those events.
The Indian students who come here for further studies, especially from the states of Punjab, Haryana and Gujarat, basically come from economically well-to-do families, and they carry with them expensive gadgets like laptops, mobile phones etc while they travel by train and walk home from station in the late-night hours on their way home after attending their college classes or from their part-time jobs. They fall prey to the unemployed youths and juveniles who travel in gangs and whose main intention is theft or robbery in order to find some cash to satisfy their addiction to drugs. The students usually work on cash jobs and quite often carry with them a good amount of money when returning home, of which the juveniles are well aware.
Also, there are a number of reasons why the Australians do not like the Indians anymore, and I have made a concerted effort to highlight some of them:
First and foremost, too many Indians have been coming to Australia over the past couple of years o study various courses, right from cookery/hotel management and hair-dressing, to accounting, business administration and marketing management, majority of them with the ultimate intention of procuring Permanent Residence (PR) in Australia. Apparently, these students, back in India, have to pay large sums of money, first to the migrant agents, and then to the educational institutions in Australia, in the form of commission and course fees, in addition to the hefty amount of migration and visa processing fees. I really do not know how these students manage to find such huge amounts – either their parents are filthy rich, or they manage to obtain large loans from banks and financial institutions.
The rents being very high, especially in Sydney and Melbourne, the students take up a flat or an apartment on lease and live in them in large numbers, sometimes as many as 8 to 10 people, which causes all sorts of problems to the other residents in the apartment building, like excessive usage of water, the cost of which is to be borne by the co-residents, as there is no individual water meter system for the flat or apartment. The constant usage of mobile phones and loud talking by these students in their balconies during the late night hours while speaking to their folks back home (India is five and half hours behind Australia) adds to the resentment and anger of the co-residents and neighbours.
The Indian students, especially from the north, generally do not conduct themselves well and follow the rules and regulations that are in place at the Strata Living Apartments and Units. For instance, they park their car in the driveways where one is not supposed to, and also, they put their clothes and washings hanging over the balcony, which is against the Strata law. Quite a few of them are rude and arrogant and carry on with their living as if it was their own home, showing disrespect to the local rules and regulations. Mind you, there are quite a number of students who are well-behaved and follow the local rules and regulations strictly, and it is only a few that are bad, but these bad guys dent the image and do substantial harm and bring in bad name to the entire Indian community.
Some Indian students have brought in the culture of bribing to the Australian society. These students, once again mostly from the north, indulge in bribe giving in various ways. For example, when they want to acquire the local driving licence, they tend to bribe the driving instructors, who incidentally also hail from the same Indian background. Also, after having done their respective courses and studies, when they apply for Permanent Residence (PR) in Australia, they bribe heavily the Indian business people.
To cite an example again, when the students complete their course, say in cookery or hotel management, they will need to achieve at least one year's working experience in Australia in order to qualify them to apply for PR. Now, in order to obtain this work experience certificate, they will approach some Indian hotel/restaurant owner and offer him quite a bit of bribe, anything ranging from AU$ 15,000 to AU$ 20,000, and the hHotel owner willingly (and shamefully as well) will oblige and do the needful.
The cost of living in Australia is very high , especially the rents and travel expenditure, and in order to support and sustain themselves with their lodging and boarding, and also to remit a regular amount of money back home to service their loan, invariably these students take up all sorts of small and menial part-time jobs like taxi driving, car washing, cleaning, cooking, as waiters, check-out assistants at supermarkets, and so on as the Australian government is allows the students to work on a part-time basis up to 20 hours a week.
Most of these small jobs are taken up by the students, who are even willing to work on cash basis on hourly rates much lower to the official rates, thus depriving job opportunities to the local workforce, and this causes great resentment, anger and frustration amongst the locals, the youth in particular, whose unemployment rate is very high, hovering around 15% for a while now.
Some Indians, being well educated and affluent, by nature, tend to have a sort of flamboyancy and superiority complex – either the way they speak or conduct themselves in public, which is not always liked by the Australians.
These are the main reasons why the Australians have taken a dislike to the Indians. Once again, I would stress that the various attacks that took place during the past few years were carried out mostly by the unemployed youth and the juveniles, the main motive being robbery and theft, and not race related, whatsoever. For the records, the Australian government has strict federal and state racial anti-discrimination laws in place, and anyone found flouting these laws is liable to severe punishment.
I would like to take this opportunity to offer a few suggestions and guidelines to the Indian migrants, especially the students, who are already here and those on the way, which will help them settle down and assimilate into the Australian community:
Be honest and truthful. Do not encourage or indulge in bribing.
Do not show off or flash flamboyancy. A little bit of humbleness will not harm.
Do have concern for co-residents and neighbours, especially if you are living in an apartment building.
Follow strictly the local rules and regulations. Leave behind some of your home culture and way of living and make an effort to adapt to the local conditions and culture. Be a Roman when you are in Rome, as the old saying goes.
Be friendly and affectionate to the locals – do not be rude in any case.
Do not openly display your expensive gadgets like mobiles, laptops, etc while travelling by public transport. Also, do not travel alone, especially during the night hours.
When it comes to the usage of mobile phones, computers, laptops, or any other household digital and electronic gadgets and items, Indians, especially the students, are generally good – so give a helping hand in this regard – either in their selection and/or usage.
For the record, and in conclusion, I would like to state that I have been in Australia for the last 24 years, and I am happy to say that till now I have not experienced any anti-racial behaviour and/or discrimination from the Australians, either at the workplace or in the neighbourhood that I live in. The same goes for my family members and my Indian friends. Of course, at times, there is some jealousy, healthy rivalry and competition between the Aussies and the Indians, as the Indian children generally tend to work hard and do well, first in their studies, and later at work.
I suppose this sort of jealousy and healthy competition exists in every society all over the world. Take for instance, the Indian case itself. It is an established fact that in India, people from the south do not like the north Indians, and vice-versa. Also, in the state of Maharashtra, for instance, the locals do not like Keralites, Tamilians, Kannadigas and people from northern states, as they take away most of their jobs. Similarly, I do not think that we, the Mangaloreans, like the Keralites much, as we tend to adapt rather a negative and hostile attitude towards them because the Keralites are hardworking and shrewd people who ultimately do well and outshine us.
As a concluding note, I would like to put it on record that presently there has been a sharp decline in Indians applying for student visas for Australia. This is partly due to a reduction in the visas allowed to be granted, tightening of the regulations associated with them, the strengthening of the Australian dollar and a clampdown on unscrupulous migration agents and colleges.
(Author's note: The views and statements contained in this article are based on my own personal experience and observation, and also gathered from my close friends and Australian associates).
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