Modi needs to be held accountable for spike in the number of Indian immigrants coming to Canada


When I immigrated to Canada in 2001, most of my colleagues and relatives in India questioned – why was I abandoning my home country?

They had logic. I was a staff reporter with a major northern Indian daily. I had a stable income. My wife too was working. Economically, we were privileged, and gradually I would have started earning more if promoted. We did not face the challenges of those who are forced to leave for reasons such as political persecution. Still, we wanted to go to Canada to earn more as inflation had made our life a little difficult.

I still remember how some of my friends made fun of me, saying my decision lacked any foresight, and I should be focussing on my journalistic career in India.

For several years after moving to Canada we noted how people within our family friend circles had no inclination to immigrate. Most of them were doing fine. Only those whose income was way too little and had no future at all wanted to move out. Since we were from the upper middle class, our experience was very different from those who were poor and marginalized.

Fast forward to the year 2014, when India elected a right wing Hindu nationalist Prime Minister – Narendra Modi (This month marks his eight years in power.) A majority of those who voted him to power were enamoured by his image of a “development-oriented” leader who could deliver. The previous governments, according to them, had failed to take India forward.

Until then Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujarat. The rosy picture of the so-called “Gujarat model” presented by the corporate media had influenced many. They did not even seem to be bothered about the truth of malnutrition among the tribal children of Gujarat, and an environment of polarization created in that state by Modi.

In 2002, thousands of Muslims were killed by goons belonging to Modi’s Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) after a train caught fire, leaving more than 50 Hindu pilgrims dead. Modi had blamed Islamic extremists for the incident. The anti-Muslim pogrom that followed happened on his watch. Modi was denied visa by several countries, including the US, until he got elected as Prime Minister.

However, despite high expectations from Modi, migration from his country has increased. There is also scepticism over any huge foreign investments being made, as attacks on religious minorities and political dissidents have grown under him.

Not surprisingly, the children of some of those friends who mocked me when I left India have recently moved to Canada. For evidence, the numbers speak for themselves.

According to the figures I have obtained through sources in the Canadian government, in 2015 immigration from India was 14.5 percent of the total from all countries. India ranked number two after the Philippines. A year later, in 2016, the trend remained almost similar, Philippines number one with 14 percent and India at 13 percent. In 2017, India ranked number one, with 18 percent, and Philippines moved down to number two position. Since then India remains on the top. The percentage of immigrants from India jumped to 22 percent in 2018 and 25 percent in 2019. In 2020, it slid down to 23 percent.

Now, that is just one side of the picture. There are students who are forced to go to countries like Ukraine for higher studies, due to lack of infrastructure in India. The recent invasion by Russia has exposed how India failed these students. Not only has Modi been unable to provide for them in their own country, when they were caught into the trouble, no timely aid was given. Instead some BJP leaders tried to shift blame on the students for leaving India.

Let’s face it. No one wants to leave their home. Even a person like me still believes that I shouldn’t have left India, the country of my birth. To be honest, I still miss it. But the circumstances created by people in power leave ordinary people with little choice. If Modi’s predecessors can be blamed for creating inflation and implementing neoliberal economic policies when I left India, Modi should share blame for the current situation.

Notably, four members of a Gujarati family – the Patels and their two children aged 11 and 3 – died early this year after being exposed to extreme weather conditions while trying to cross from Manitoba over to the US. If people from Modi’s Gujarat could be so desperate, one can imagine what the poor and the oppressed would be thinking while struggling to live under such a toxic political environment.

This is not to suggest that the previous government was perfect. In fact, most governments have made the lives of the poor miserable, but Modi belongs to a political breed that believes in social Darwinism, where those on the margins can never expect anything good from the state, let alone a hope of affirmative actions. The increased volume of anti-Muslim rhetoric under his government only shows that he has nothing to offer to make living affordable, so he just uses religion as a tool to pacify the Hindu majority to sustain power.

Gurpreet Singh is a journalist


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