- Despite India as a nation having made tremendous progress on all fronts including the economic heft acquired in recent times, the clamoring of people looking forward to reaching overseas destinations for better living prospects continues to show alarming numbers. The lure of foreign countries like the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and a few other preferred countries continues to draw innumerable immigrants who risk lives and livelihoods to somehow reach these destinations. Is it because of the lack of opportunities in India that drives these ambitious immigrants to risk everything to make illegal journeys to foreign destinations? Far from it, the country is making definite progress despite global challenges.
- As we know, the urge to be called the non-resident-Indians hasn’t dimmed one bit going by the thousands of people willing to undertake risky journeys. Newspaper reports about people undertaking illegal journeys are a dime a dozen that simply does not stop from hitting the headlines. A recent report of a planeload of Indians being held in France over allegations of, first, human trafficking and then, illegal immigration made us sit up and take notice. Now, those Indians have returned to Mumbai. The modus operandi for illegal immigration is Dubai to Nicaragua (legally) and finally and most likely to the US (illegally). Of the 303 passengers on the chartered flight grounded on a refueling stop at a French airport last Thursday, 276 landed in Mumbai.
- The passengers included many Gujaratis, Punjabis, and some Tamil speakers per reports. French authorities will reportedly continue to investigate the case more as illegal immigration and not human trafficking since the judges concluded passengers were on board of their own free will. Mind you, there’s an alarming surge in Indians trying to illegally enter the US. A US Customs report shows a five-fold increase last few years of both with-papers and undocumented Indians – from a little less than 20,000 in 2019-2020 to almost 97,000 in October 2022-September 2023. These numbers are staggering by any stretch of the imagination. Several communities, and districts, in Punjab and Gujarat are long-established immigrant hubs, both legal and illegal.
PC: Global Issues
- Also, it’s worth noting both are among India’s better-off states; Gujarat’s per capita income was Rs 2.5 lakh (2022), the seventh highest among Indian states. Interestingly, of Indians legally going overseas for jobs, Gujarati emigrants make up a mere 1% and Punjabis 3%. Here, the bulk, 32% are from UP. The Paris episode shines a harsh light on how little investigation has gone into understanding the many factors pushing Gujaratis and Punjabis to leave India by paying good money to human smugglers, sometimes over a crore. Of course, a substantial number of asylum-seekers too are in the frame. GOI must seriously commission an exercise to get behind what is pushing Indians in certain districts to risk both savings and lives.