ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Migrating Yuppies and Lonely Parents

I read with dismay AM’s Calcutta  Diary in the EPW of August 26. The diatribe against the yuppie migrating to get a share of the gold may be true of some but there are plenty of others who while they may benefit from prosperity do not necessarily epitomise the greedy, unpatriotic young, uncaring of their country and parents. The truth is not so simple. The motivations are diverse and one must really ask oneself before we accuse these youngsters looking for better opportunities of failing in patriotism and filial duties. What exactly have the patriotic rest who are here done to create an atmosphere where there is a work culture, a respect for and reward for good performance, an encouraging autonomy for the bright young to innovate and experiment? What have we done to stem the decay in our institutions, where corruption has made such deep inroads that day-to-day life requires greasing some one or the other’s palm to get basic, legitimate things done? There is today no activity that can be conducted without this ‘transaction’ cost (not mentioning the more high profile scams). In this milieu most parents themselves advise their young to seek their fortune elsewhere. In half a century of democratic politics, we have failed to create the basic edifices of a civic culture. For some sections, reservations have meant lack of opportunities in their home towns. Our economy has not exactly been conducive to employment generation. Maharashtra alone has 45 lakh educated unemployed. In an earlier era of socialism, we expanded higher education recklessly and today we have an over-production of unemployable graduates. Our university system is crumbling with poor investment in infrastructure and non-existent research funds. These are available only to so-called development institutes set up by the superannuated as private empires or to NGOs. Long ago UNCTAD had calculated the benefit to brain-importing countries from low-cost production of exporting countries as millions of dollars. The brain drain was not only from the south to north; it was also from Europe to North America. The truth is that we keep looking only at the pull factors; why don’t we also be more honest about the myriad push factors that are operative here today? Has not every generation done the same – to seek the best opportunities? Earlier the plums were in civil service or in the universities. Today it is elsewhere. Can we blame taxi drivers and maid servants for sending their children to English medium schools at enormous personal cost? Are these children greedy future yuppies? What have we given them as a vision of their country? I was deeply saddened when in a TV interview with primary children from municipal schools, when asked what they wanted to do when they grew up, almost all answered they wanted to go to America. It is the ethos of the age. There is front-page coverage for gangsters in national newspapers while a renowned Gandhian like Usha Mehta who stood by principles all her life merits a two-inch half-hearted obit note full of errors on an inside page. There have been, in the last decade, many IT professionals who are returning their debt. Like the expatriate Chinese, they are investing in India, bringing their experience to build things here. Some have made donations to their alma maters. Maybe this is only a tiny stream and only in one sector. There are others who have a conscience. Many organisations of Indians abroad I know of are assisting NGOs here for schooling of underprivileged children, their members making generous donations from their earnings. The tide is turning, however slowly. Migrant labour has filled our coffers over the years. AM’s vitriolic style is well known. So is his penchant for over-simplifying issues. Let our hearts not bleed only for lonely, elderly middle class parents. They have at least the satisfaction that their children are doing well. The many million others are not so lucky. There are also many lonely, elderly, with their children in other cities, even here. That is the way the economy works. A Concerned Reader Mumbai

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