Exploiting Indians studying abroad in the name of Covid-19

As the stature and importance of India is growing steadily in this highly competitive world, the stature and significance of Indian Mainstream Media is diminishing at an exponential rate. The way Coronavirus pandemic has been reported by the Mainstream Media in India, suggests that they: have confined themselves to be a political mouthpiece of some parties highlighting only the issues that help their caretakers; have become mere promoters of the version of the story presented by English Media (mainly US and UK); or have become a source of entertainment showing life events of celebrities, tiktok videos and some other similar things. There is no Indian narrative and that is one of the major reason how western media is able to tread on Indian issues effortlessly.

Ever since the virus started spreading life wildfire, engulfing countries after countries, I have been reading headlines from various news sources that resemble like this:

“How Coronavirus disrupted Indian students’ study abroad dream”

I am sure you must have read them too. I have serious issues with this headline, especially when an Indian news source cites it. Let me give you an example of a headline that would be more apt in explaining the current situation as well as the reason why I have issues with Indian Media houses not running such headlines:

“How foreign countries are exploiting helpless Indian students in the name of Coronavirus”

Do you see the difference between the two headlines? Can you see what is wrong with the first headline? It downplays the role of a government and a university in taking care of the situation, plus it also insinuates that a “dream” has been crushed and noting serious about it. However, the second headline indicates exactly what is happening with an Indian student in a foreign country. It is not an attempt to sensationalize the predicament Indian students currently find themselves in, but it is an attempt to not let the mainstream media push students’ miseries under a rug and walk over it without any gumption.

As per the newly release data by the Ministry or External affairs, there were more than 750,000 Indian students studying in different countries pursuing a variety of courses in 2018/19. India is the world’s second-largest source of international students and one of the fastest-growing sending market. One third of the students studying in different countries are on loans. Out of these students a majority of students are studying in countries like the US, the UK, Canada, etc.

Now the point is that these students have already started with their courses. They have already paid for the tuition fee, they are still paying their monthly rents, they are still paying their monthly health insurance premiums, but to what end? An online course? A digital course? They did not enroll for a distance learning program. Did they? What about the International exposure they actually were looking for? The labs are shut for engineering students; the seminars, expos, workshops are canceled for business /management students. The Phd students who used their hard earned research travel rewards have gone waste because the labs are shut for them. The magnificent infrastructure that plays a vital role in getting these students to shortlist and apply for these universities is out of their reach even when they are in the campus.

What are these ambitious students going to do with their incomplete/incompetent education? Is any body talking to these students? Is anybody counseling them? Or are we waiting for a student to succumb to the pressure and do something that would make us think that we should have acted in due time? “How would you feel if one day you wake up and you are told, you cannot complete your masters?” What will your mental condition be? And here I am not even talking about the ones who were to begin their study semester abroad this summer. I am talking about the ones who are half way through or are almost done.

By introducing online/digital classes the universities and governments are taking care of their wallets. They finish the courses in time, at the cost of student’s learning experience and will be ready for the next year’s intake. An incoming student contributes to the host country’s economy in various ways: travel, housing, tourism etc. For instance, the spending on tuition and hostel fees by Indian students studying abroad has shot up 44% from $1.9 billion in 2013-14 to $2.8 billion in 2017-18 and these are incomplete numbers because they talk only about tuition and hostel. For this year, this amount of forex spending has zero return on investment for India.

Now before you come up with the excuse that it is an unprecedented scenario, I wouldn’t have come up with the blog if their issues were not fixable. Their issues are easy to fix, but I don’t see anybody asking for them. There are only two things that need to be done in order to fix their problems:

  • The respective governments should extend the visas for these students (the students who already started any full time course and the classes stopped because of the pandemic) by one semester, without any extra visa costs and conditions.
  • The respective universities should assure each of its students that they would not lose anything other than their time due to this pandemic. They will get a chance to take up the same classes/expos/seminars/workshops/exchange once the pandemic settles down.

I specifically mentioned certain countries and regions like the US, the UK, Canada, Australia and some more because they have extremely high tuition fee and extremely strict visa procedures. Education in these countries is a business. If it is a business it should atleast be fair. Students paid for classroom study, they should not be done away with virtual classrooms. Having said that, not every one is running a business. Countries like Germany, have lenient visa procedures, there is negligible tuition fee and visa gets extended quite easily. The students in Germany will end up wasting some time because of this outbreak, but they will be able to take up what ever is not possible this semester in the next semester. I know this how? Because I graduated from one of the universities in Germany a few years ago, and the visas are based on the enrollment and there is flexibility in taking up different courses as per student’s convenience. I can say it from my experience Germany treats its students as well as professionals very nicely.

I might not be related to or know any of the students currently facing difficulties due to this outbreak. But I can imagine the pain, anxiety and stress they are going through. I am sad that millions of people who were once Indian students in any of these countries/university have forgotten how difficult it was for them to survive and excel in normal conditions but are not raising their voice for the students who are facing suffering now. Maybe they are just happy thinking thank god it did not happen with us.”

I am confused if I should be disappointed more because I can’t find even one article, blog or news segment highlighting these issues or because I can find articles fighting to bring these students back home. Sending/Bringing them back home is even worse for them and will exacerbate their miseries. It makes their lives even more difficult, by complicating visa status. Quite surprisingly, the political leaders and journalists in India are asking people (within India) to stay where they are and not to return to their hometowns (which is absolutely correct, and it should be like this). But then why is it not the same for the students studying abroad?

We have always been so proud of successful CEOs of Indian origin like Sundar Pichai(google), Satya Nadella (Microsoft), Shantanu Narayen (Adobe) etc. and leave no chance to brag. However, would we have tried to help them, had they encountered some issues during their master studies in whatever International universities they studied in?

No matter how tempted you are to answer in a “yes”, unfortunately that’s not the case. We would have never heard any of their issues. Like we are not hearing the issues of the students now. Or do you think the entire lot of 2019 would be dumb and won’t make a mark in next 10-12 years?

I guess, to get one’s issues highlighted by Indian Media, one needs to either be a Dalit student or be a Muslim student. If you are either one of them, all the media houses in India and abroad would come running to your door step. If you don’t believe me look up all the cases that made news in the last few years in India and you will find the same. But fortunately or unfortunately a whooping majority of the students studying abroad don’t form any kind of a vote bank, and that’s why Indian Media gives a damn about them. That might be the reason why some students in the US some time ago raised caste discrimination issue and sought media attention. Why I blame Media? Because Media is supposed to be the eyes and the ears of a society. Once it highlights the issues, the authorities budge. These students don’t have unions and don’t have a collective voice. Someone has to raise their concerns.

Western media fails to see the injustice being done to the Indian students right in their respective countries but is much more interested in knowing how the poor is surviving the 21-day lock-down in India or if India is doing a human rights violation in the name of Pandemic. They are worried about the migrant workers are walking miles out of Delhi to their home towns. This kind of behavior is expected out of them, they have to portray themselves better and show India down. Some even try to portray Britain ruling India was for India’s own good.

Maybe the western countries have realized by now that no matter what they do to the Indian Students, the students will keep coming. Why? Because India does not have or will not have enough places them to provide higher studies. How can I say India will never have it? I will come up with a complete article on this, if you see merit in this one, please stay tuned to my blog to keep receiving the notifications.

If you have been following my articles on Coronavirus pandemic, you would have come across certain questions that Indian Media should have raised right away, but they did not. If you haven’t read them yet, please do, I have added the links at the bottom. The points I raised are genuine, I know this, because a lot of people went to a great length to get those articles removed from the various platforms I posted them on, and unfortunately they succeeded in getting them removed, hidden or collapsed.

Thanks for reading and stay healthy!!!

Facts and figures Mainstream Media is hiding from you as far as Coronavirus Pandemic is concerned:

7 thoughts on “Exploiting Indians studying abroad in the name of Covid-19

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