Students Trying to Become NRIs Through Back Door

Students: Pawns for education peddlers?

By Kul Bhushan
Young Indians go abroad to study, settle there to become NRIs. Although this has been going on for over half a century, the recent negative news of Indian students in USA and, earlier Australia, has raised hackles in India and abroad.

Before blaming Indian students to try and enter these countries through the back door, it should be asked why the American and Australian authorities have allowed these dubious universities or institutions to function. How do they get official permissions to operate as institutes of higher learning? These permissions rest squarely with Australian and US authorities.

In Melbourne, a couple of years ago, scores of Indian students were attacked, injured and so they protested. These attacks made shocking TV and print news in India. The External Affairs Minister S M Krishna visited Australia in January 2011 and discussed the current situation with the authorities and local Indians. Krishna deplored Australia’s heinous crime against humanity when a student Nitin Garg was killed. A few weeks ago, in Melbourne, he commended Australia for high security and quality services to students. Student leader Gautam Gupta also praised the Australian government for doing so much for students.

What has been done since last year? S. K. Gupta, a professional in Melbourne, reports that many student visas to Australia have been refused and made extremely tough. International English Language Test (IELT) has been made difficult and new students must have better grades. Bogus colleges run by Indians have been closed. Permanent Residency (PR) for students has been made very difficult. Many courses have been off listed from the PR list forcing students to go back to India with huge debts. Students with fraudulent certificates have been deported after cancelling their permanent visas. Australian courts have punished students and hooligans with jail terms up to 14 years for criminal activities. Result? The number of Indian students to Australia has declined by around a third. “On the roads, you do not hear loud mobile talk in Punjabi, Hindi or Gujarati. Without high decibel Indian music, suburban trains are very quiet now,” wrote Gupta.

The spotlight has shifted to USA now. More than a thousand students from Andhra Pradesh have landed in a grave situation after forking out thousands of dollars after it was discovered that the Tri-Valley University in San Francisco Bay Area they had enrolled was a sham to mint money. Some students were shackled with tracking devices on their legs and imprisoned. Acid was poured into their emotional wounds when a US official in India haughtily commented that these tracking devices were ‘trendy and modern’. Later, this comment was hastily retracted. The beleaguered students have protested that they have been treated like criminals and animals for no fault of theirs. They face the prospect of deportation from the US after paying thousands of dollars in fees and airfares. Tri-Valley University was raided, shut down and charged by US federal investigating authorities for defrauding students, helping foreign nationals illegally acquire immigration status, money laundering and other crimes.

A concerned NRI, B R Prasad, commented, “It’s strange that the US Government which takes no chances in matter of security allowed its Tri-University to commit immigration fraud and permitted its students to violate the rule of being on campus by allowing them to stay at various places in USA while claiming to be students of Residential and Online courses.”

Minister Krishna promised to take up the matter with the American authorities, promised to help these students and condemned the tracking collars. “It is an inhuman act and unacceptable,” he said demanding that these be removed and severe action taken against those who snapped them on. But no action has been taken so far. The Secretary of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs N. Rao flew to USA to discuss this matter – a full ten days after it erupted. She met top officials and discussed the situation. As a result, American authorities have removed the hated shackles and promised to grant student visas instead of sending them home. Parents of these students in Andhra Pradesh w3ho spent thousands of dollars to send their children to USA are still distraught as the final outcome is not clear. The situation has not been fully resolved but has simmered down. 

The Indian government should crack down on dishonest educational advisors who send gullible students abroad presumably to study but in reality to settle. To help Indian students in distress, the Indian government has to act quickly and firmly in all such cases. An online poll by The Times of India asked, “Is India soft in dealing with insult to Indians on foreign soil?” Ninety one per cent respondents voted ‘Yes.’ 

—Kul Bhushan previously worked abroad as a newspaper editor and has travelled to over 50 countries. He lives in New Delhi and can be contacted at:

March 2011

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