Brave, new world?
On May 23, 1914, a Japanese tramp steamship, S.S. Komagata Maru, steamed into Burrard Inlet, near Vancouver, Canada. Chartered to carry a few hundred Indian immigrants into Canada, it arrived with a list of some 376 immigrant-passengers – mostly Sikh. The Canadian Government decided that these Indian-immigrants were not White enough – and disallowed entry into Canada.
When asked to sail out of Canadian waters, mutinous Indian passengers relieved the Japanese captain of the command. The Canadian authorities engaged a tug-boat, Sea Lion to tow the ship back into international waters. Sent back to India, the ship departed from Canada on July 23 and landed at Kolkatta (then Calcutta) on September 27th – only to be harassed by the British Raj. 26 of the passengers who returned to India were executed by the British.
Indians in Canada and USA, from the Ghadar movement, like Barkatullah, Tarak Nath Das (of letter to Tolstoy fame), and Sohan Singh publicised the incident giving momentum to the Ghadar movement for a massive uprising in India – against the British Raj. More than 90 years later, the Canadian authorities apologized.
One of the passengers on Komagata Maru was Jagat Singh Thind. His brother was Dr. Bhagat Singh Thind – an Indian-immigrant to the USA. Bhagat Singh Thind further tested immigration laws in the West – this time in the USA. Bhagat Singh Thind’s bid for US citizenship-by-naturalization finally landed at the US Supreme Court. The US Supreme Court rejected Bhagat Sngh Thind’s claim saying,
It may be true that the blond Scandinavian and the brown Hindu have a common ancestor in the dim reaches of antiquity, but the average man knows perfectly well that there are unmistakable and profound differences between them today … Our own history has witnessed the adoption of the English tongue by millions of Negroes, whose descendants can never be classified racially with the descendants of white persons notwithstanding both may speak a common root language … What we now hold is that the words “free white persons” are words of common speech, to be interpreted in accordance with the understanding of the common man, synonymous with the word “Caucasian” only as that word is popularly understood.
whatever may be the speculations of the ethnologist, it does not include the body of people to whom the appellee [Thind] belongs. It is a matter of familiar observation and knowledge that the physical group characteristics of the Hindus render them readily distinguishable from the various groups of persons in this country commonly recognized as white. The children of English, French, German, Italian, Scandinavian, and other European parentage, quickly merge into the mass of our population and lose the distinctive hallmarks of their European origin. On the other hand, it cannot be doubted that the children born in this country of Hindu parents would retain indefinitely the clear evidence of their ancestry. It is very far from our thought to suggest the slightest question of racial superiority or inferiority. What we suggest is merely racial difference, and it is of such character and extent that the great body of our people instinctively recognize it and reject the thought of assimilation. (excerpts from judgment on United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind 261 U.S. 204 (1923); delivered by Associate Justice George Sutherland; parts excized for brevity; text within […] supplied for clarity.).
In the post-War world
After WWII, with more than 50 million dead in Europe, European immigration to the US dried up. Without much ado, USA changed its immigration policy. Simultaneously, African-American activism created a market for Welfare Reform. The expanding Welfare State in the USA, created labour shortages. Many among the poor in USA, on welfare, soon stopped full-time work altogether. Faced with acute labour shortages, the West needed to something – and fast.
Back home, in India
Coinciding with this on the opposite side of the world was JN Nehru, trying to build ‘temples of modern India‘.
IIT-Chennai and Kharagpur with German collaboration were kick-started; IIT-Mumbai with assistance from UNESCO and the Soviet Union. The Anglo-Saxon Bloc jumped onto this bandwagon. They decided to ‘help’ India by setting up more IITs and IIMs. IIT-Kanpur, with US-aid in 1960; and IIT-Delhi with UK-assistance in 1961 followed. IIM-Calcutta with collaboration from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA. More recently, to keep this flow coming into the US, American companies have tied up for virtual classrooms.
And where do graduates from these centres go? Need I answer!
The Anglo-Saxon Bloc pushed disguised labour-recruitment programs as development aid. For instance, the Colombo Plan was pushed in the sub-continent – by the US, UK, Canada and Australia to bring English speaking populations of the Indian sub-continent up to scratch, for use by the Anglo-Saxon Bloc.
Ten years after … the Colombo Plan, … the four advanced countries who are members of the Plan, namely, the U.S., the U.K., Australia and Canada … member countries, which have good training facilities to offer, are willing to make them available to others that still lack them. Under the Colombo Plan Technical Cooperation … training is provided at the cost of the host Government. (via This day that age-The Hindu; parts excised for brevity and clarity.).
The USA overturned Thind vs US Govt judgment by the US Supreme Court. As a result of this policy tweak, Indian students suddenly were welcome to the USA. Earlier, the US Supreme Court, in Thind vs US Govt supported US Government immigration policies which barred Asian immigration.
Suddenly Indians could land at USA shores and airports as immigrants. Soon, for Indians, USA became: -
- A liberal, egalitarian, non-racist society – based on meritocracy. A land of opportunity.
- Eager, grateful, hard-working, no-questions asked, English speaking, qualified, low-cost employees became available to US industry.
- US gained brownie points on global platforms in a world fighting the Cold War. A leg-up to USA propaganda.
- On the slippery slope of post-colonial India, the IITs and IIMs gave USA diplomatic traction in India.
- Net result – The most apparent result. 2.5 million Indians have come to occupy 10% of high-income, high-end jobs, professions, positions, careers in the USA, making them the richest sub-group in modern USA.
- All this at zero cost to the US taxpayer. The entirely amount was to the account of the Indian taxpayer.
- The Indian taxpayer is left with a 7% fiscal deficit. And Government debt equal to 60% of GDP debt.
- It provided USA with a steady stream of workers. US got it work-force from India. The expat and immigrant Indian workforce has become the richest sub-group in India.
Many ‘desi‘ Indians who migrate, believing that they can expect ‘superior’ systems in the West. All that these ‘desi‘ ’immi-grunts’ have to then do is take ‘advantage’ of opportunities in the West – they believe! Is it surprising that these ‘desi’ Indian ‘immi-grunts’ hit ‘glass-ceilings’, encounter ‘racism’?
Nation-building is a tough job – and someone’s gotta to do it! We can’t ‘escape from backward’ India to the ‘forward’ West. Not without becoming second-class citizens. The Indian ‘immi-grunt’ has seen some level of acceptance – after India itself achieved some modicum of success.
Importance of Indian immi-grunts to the US of A
To get a real handle on this number, project this number to the 25-65 age group in the USA. India currently sends 100,000 students and professionals, every year to the USA. With lesser numbers earlier, there are nearly 2.0-3.0 million Indians – mostly highly qualified, between the ages of 25-65 – holding up the US industry.
To get a perspective, assume that a worker is a tax paying worker. The IRS of the USA processed under 100.5 million individual tax returns – from a US population of 300.5 million. Thus, these highly skilled Indians are 2 million of the 100 million tax-paying workers – approximately 2% of the total US working population.
If we further gate people typically, white-collar workers, high technology work force, earning more than US$ 100,000 per annum, we are at about 20-30 million Americans (24% of US taxpayers). Put that way, Indians comprise an estimated 8%-12% of the highly qualified and (highly paid) workforce in the US. What would the US have done without this skilled and qualified labour force? Is it surprising that Bill Gates lobbies for H1B visas for Indians?
This message is not lost to others. Businessweek reported how even “the French and German governments, faced with declining numbers of engineers, are trying to attract grads through exchange programs.” More recently, Australia recruited, under a migration scheme of the Australian government, nearly 450 technicians (plumbers, masons, carpenters, electricians and heavy and light-vehicle mechanics) from the Industrial Training Institute (ITI) at Pune.
As an article pointed out, India does not gain from these high-skill workers. Unlike
“less skilled workers, highly educated professionals tend to account for little in terms of remittances. Skilled Indian professionals in the U.S. have also failed, by and large, to contribute large levels of foreign direct investment (FDI) required by India. In contrast, China, which along with India is the largest exporter of students to the U.S., has greatly benefited in this regard from its skilled emigrants. The Financial Times (January 18, 2003) noted that China “has managed to attract 10 times more FDI than India on the back of strong in-flows from the Chinese diaspora.”
Interestingly, the IITs and their web sites are coy about the number of alumni who go abroad to study and work. Despite receiving substantial budgetary allocations from the Central government, the failure to collect systematically data on the sensitive point of the brain drain suggests an attitude of non-transparency. IIT managements and alumni networks tend to avoid initiating a public debate on the destination of IIT graduates and who benefits directly from the IIT system. (From The IIT Story: Issues and Concerns By KANTA MURALI; Frontline magazine.).
Chains made of words
What is making this easy is the subsidy given to higher education in English by the Government of India (GOI). This system of English language education turns out near-perfect candidates for absorption by the West.
Will India’s new generation get the perspective?
- Strangers by sea: a tale of Canada’s boat people (theglobeandmail.com)
- New teaching resource asks students tough migrant questions (canada.com)
- Jeff Jedras: Ottawa plays the anti-immigrant card (fullcomment.nationalpost.com)
- Boatload of migrants a wake-up call for Canada (theglobeandmail.com)
- Molly’sBlog 2010-08-21 14:52:00 (mollymew.blogspot.com)