NRIs moving back to India is not the solution to India’s problems and let this not be the scapegoat that everyone turns to when they need one.
I was doing my friendly rounds around the blogsphere when I came across this article titled “Des, Pardes: NRIs Can Have Best of Both Worlds“. It is interesting and I like the first part where the author articulates four main ways NRIs to contribute to India.
But some parts of the article, especially the last concluding paragraph, are OBNOXIOUS:
“India is a big country and some things are left better to just the Is in NRIs, the Indians.”
“Indians couldn’t vote in the 2004 US elections and you couldn’t vote here either. India’s democracy is for Indians.”
“If NRIs want to do more then they will have to watch Swades. Like Shah Rukh Khan, they will have to move back. As for what I do for India, I live here.”
The movie, Swades, is kind of old and the article probably has already been debated over, but when I read it, it struck a chord in my heart and I just had to pen a few words. So here’s my few words..
Are you out of your mind!?! If the whole NRI population of million move back to India, are we going to have better infrastructure and better democracy? Is that what the Indian economy needs? Did the Indian government set up an entire ministry for NRIs because they think we should all return home for the betterment of India? And in the fairy-tale story of Swades, after a few years, would the global precipitation engineer – Shah Rukh Khan – have solved the water problem of the world? Instead of attempting to solve an imminent problem of global water shortage, he decided to make a simple hydro electric pump in a remote village in India? Now who does that really help? Romantic as he may have looked when he ran up the hill and jumped into a water tank, isn’t it a gross waste of his genius? He is making up for lack of infrastructure and political will rather than finding solutions to bigger problems, which could help not just India, but the whole world.
Now, here’s one for movies – I remember watching a Malayalam movie some years back, in which Mohanlal portrays a non-resident Indian, who returns home. He sets up a bus service and has many dreams and aspirations for his life in India. The movie shows the realities that he faces. I do not want to summarise the problems that he had to go through, but he comes close to bankruptcy and losing his family for good*. So lets not kid ourselves that its a bed of roses or that we will be contributing to India’s future as soon as we move there.
NRIs play an important role – be it the economy or the image of India in the outside world, to name just two. I still clearly remember the first time when I went to junior college in Singapore and a fellow student came to me and said: ” You are from India. Do you eat everyday at home? Do you have babies?” Later I learnt that the question was inspired by a documentary about India that Temasek Junior College airs every year for its students. I suddenly realised that even though the rest didn’t ask me straight out, they probably still thought I lived in utter poverty and was subjected to child marriage, just because I came from India. Well, six years later, when I started work in the same country, I felt much better when someone came up to me and said “You are from India? You must be very smart. All Indians here are so intelligent.”
We can’t fight the fact that people generalise things. But we can guide the generalisations in the right direction. If the world seems to think India is a country where no one can afford to eat everyday or where child marriage is still practised, it falls upon the NRI to correct that view. When someone outside of India does well in the international community, word gets around that he is an Indian. He does India proud – not his adopted community. We do not live in an isolated society anymore. India needs capable ambassadors abroad as much as it needs capable people within her. And we work very hard to keep her reputation. We remit money to India. We invest. We encourage people to travel to India. In times of need, we try to chip in as much as we can. Let no man say that we neglect our country. And it is atrocious to say that to contribute to India, one needs to return to India.
Consider this – How many of the major international publications carry articles published by Indians? Many. But how many of these Indians live in India? Very few. I do not say achievements of International repute are not possible in India – but lets face it. We lack the infrastructure. We lack the money. So, if every NRI returns to India, we are not going to have all of them doing as well as they did outside of India. Is that what we really want? As much as we need people who work at the grassroots, we also need people who make contributions of international significance. While some of this can be done in India, a lot of it is easier to be done elsewhere, at least for now. Every person has his or her own role to play in the society – some as residing Indians and some as non residing Indians. And neither is better than the other.
>>”India is a big country and some things are left better to just the Is in NRIs, the Indians.”
If the writer even thinks that just because an Indian does not reside in India, he becomes any less of an Indian, he is grossly mistaken.
>> “Indians couldn’t vote in the 2004 US elections and you couldn’t vote here either. India’s democracy is for Indians.”
The writer should get his facts right. First of all, NRIs are not just those in US. And second, Indian democracy is for Indians, which includes the non resident Indians. We could vote in the 2004 elections and we can vote in all elections to come.
>> “As for what I do for India, I live here.”
And I am sure the writer is doing India such a big favour by living there. We are all so indebted to him.
Sure, I would want to return to India someday in my life, if it feels right. But it will be because I want to be close to family or my homeland. I wouldn’t kid myself that I will return to India to do more for India. And that the Indian economy will miraculously improve if I return to India. And by the same reason, I refuse to be told by people that I am not contributing to India by not returning to India. And that if I want to do anything more for India, I have to return to India. NRIs moving back to India is not the solution to India’s problems and let this not be the scapegoat that everyone turns to when they need one.