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Explained Ideas: Why Indian students leaving the country is a worrisome trend

Data suggests that an increasing number of NRIs have become “not-returning” Indians, and are contributing more to foreign countries, writes Sanjaya Baru.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: December 30, 2020 7:17:59 am
students going abroad, indian express tracking toppers series, sanjaya baru, express explainedMore than half of India's toppers study abroad. (AP Photo/Representational)

The Indian Express reported this week the results of its investigation, Tracking India’s Toppers, into the academic choices of school-leaving toppers that showed more than half of the first rankers in Class 10 and Class 12 examinations during the two decades of 1996-2015 had migrated and were studying or employed overseas, mostly in the US.

“The toppers are the tip of an iceberg of student migration,” writes Sanjaya Baru (former Media Advisor to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh) in his opinion piece. “More recent data, post-2015, suggest that the trend of out-migration of Indian talent and wealth has accelerated.”

Data collected by Baru from a couple of high-profile private schools in New Delhi show that while around the turn of the century about 20 per cent of their high school students went abroad for graduate studies, the number shot up to close to 50 per cent by 2010 and to 70 per cent in 2019. If the CBSE and ISC toppers are India’s brightest, many of the school-leavers from private schools like these belong to India’s wealthiest.

In other words, “Even as the year ends with renewed calls from Prime Minister Narendra Modi for an Atmanirbhar Bharat, India’s best and brightest are busy making plans for emigration.”

Both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Prime Minister Modi have invested hope by suggesting that out-migration does not necessarily constitute a “brain drain”, but could help create a “brain bank” on which India can draw for its own development. However, the data suggests that an increasing number of non-resident Indians (NRIs) have become “not-returning” Indians, and are contributing more to their host countries than to their home country.

In fact, there is now an emerging category of Indians migrating out and opting to stay out of India because they feel their motherland no longer wants them. This sense of alienation, especially among minorities, is a disturbing trend.

“An equally worrying trend is the increasing number of India’s super-rich who have chosen to live abroad and work from abroad,” he writes.

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Indian laws permit an annual outward remittance of up to US$2,50,000. The law also permits business persons to function from overseas as non-resident entities.

“The next generation of top Indian business families is increasingly opting for this dual status of owning and managing business in India while living overseas,” he concludes.

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