Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Australia: Curry bashing and ‘convict stains’

Australia’s original image as ‘Penal Colony’ slowly faded away after the World War II. People had forgotten that once it was a country of offenders shipped out from Great Britain, the so called ‘debris of British convictism’. Perhaps only the Barmy Army tried to keep that image alive with taunts like the song,

‘We are a convict colony,
We carry balls and chains’

Today Australia is a respected country in the world. One of the major factors behind this transformation was the revised immigration policy which changed the demographic pattern. Australia now has the largest immigrant population in the world.

The unfortunate ‘curry bashing’ (attack on Indian students) that is going on Down Under reminds one again of the ‘convict stain’. The veil of respectability that Australia has acquired is wearing thin.

The relationship between Australia and India has been good. Except of course on the cricket field, and when that country refused to sell uranium to us in the wake of the Indo-US Nuclear Pact.

Two explanations the Australian sources give for the attacks on Indian students are: 1. such acts are not racist but of a criminal nature, and 2. many Indian students take up part-time jobs which require them to use the public transport system late at night, exposing them to the miscreants. Both indicate insufficient or inefficient policing.

Of course, the Australian Government is keen to stop the dastardly attacks. For one thing, it sullies the country’s image internationally. But more than that, it is a matter of economics. Education is Australia’s third largest export commodity. Estimates of money spent by Indians to study in that country vary from half a billion to two billion USD per year. No country would like to discard that kind of business.

The State of Victoria, where most of the recent attacks took place, is planning to enact stricter laws to deal with the situation. That would be time consuming. And other states with such legislation have their share of curry bashing nevertheless.

The Government of India (GOI) has the clear responsibility to protect Indians abroad. What should it do? Hot lines and diplomatic pow-wows are fine, but how long would these take to fructify?

GOI has three options: 1. Continue with the diplomatic efforts, 2. Issue an advisory against studies Down Under, and 3. Ban students from going to Australia.

There is another alternative, in the long term. With an outlay of 2b USD an year, India can establish sufficient world class educational facilities. Study at home can be the slogan.

What do you think?

1 comment:

Kariyachan said...

Dear AT Sir;

With the "curry bashings" moving more on the affirmative, I suspect there could be some external interests behind the whole saga - most likely the powers who are not cozy about the recent warmth in the relationships between Australia and India.

Why only Indians are being the prime targets? This could well be deliberately committed to iginte animosity between India and Australia , and to perhaps strain our strategic and economic interests vis-a-vis Australia.

This is an angle which cannot be ruled out.