Home > National Affairs > Will Modi’s promise retrieve Indian talent?
I will repay this debt by building a nation of your dreams - Modi at Madison
I will repay this debt by building a nation of your dreams - Modi at Madison

Will Modi’s promise retrieve Indian talent?

|By Narendra Kaushik|

New Delhi: On Sunday when Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked around 1.8 million Indian expats in Madison Square Garden, New York, to draw inspiration from ‘Pravasi Bharatiya’ Mahatma Gandhi and return to India to pay their debt to motherland, he was not just talking in air.

Modi was rather giving expression to an issue which has greatly enthused a part of the 20 million-strong Indian community (Non Resident Indians (NRIs), Overseas Citizens of India (OCIs) and Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) settled abroad and which his government has silently been working on.

As evident from the raucous reception the PM got in the programme organized by NRIs associations in United States of America (USA), Modi’s ascent to power in New Delhi has greatly enthused the overseas Indians.

His Government’s decision to increase FDI in Defence, Railway and Insurance, online green clearances for big projects, grant of lifetime licenses to ships critical to commerce, compliance checks on business for labour laws only on basis of solid information and not on government officials’ whims, proposed labour reforms, digitisation of processes, merger of OCIs and PIOs and granting of lifetime Indian visa to Indian expats has fired their imagination and many of them look set to pitch at least one foot (euphemism for investing) in India.

 “There is 100 per cent renewed interest. We have a majority government after a long time. The DIPP (Department of Industrial Policy and Programme) is gung ho about creating avenues for engagement of Indian Diaspora in economic and non-economic activities,”

says Charu Mathur, CEO (Chief Executive Officer), Overseas Indian Facilitation Centre (OIFC), a PPP project of Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA) and Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), an umbrella group having representation of top industries and business houses in the country.

The OIFC is trying to mop up investment for 121 state projects and plays an interface between Indian Diaspora and various Indian states.

The focus is on engaging the Diaspora and student communities and creating opportunities for them to give their skills, competencies and energies to India.  

The Government wants the Diaspora to contribute in education, Science & Technology and Renewable Energy Sectors in particular.

The OIFC helps states to organize global investor summits. Mathur identifies Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh among the forerunners in organizing such summits. Lately Kerala and Karnataka have also joined the bandwagon.MP is set to organize another global investors’ summit from October 8 to October 10 in Indore. The state will be amending 20 labour laws and setting up 37 industrial parks to attract global investors.

The Indian Diaspora hopes Modi would soon replicate his Gujarat schemes at the centre. Gujarat, under Modi, not only digitized everything but also made it much easier for businessmen to do business in the state. Arguably, it is the only state in India which gets back to investors and has simplified environment clearances.

The Diaspora believes Modi will improve labour laws and infrastructure, basic social issues and work on rehabilitation and facilitation for return of Indian human intellectual capital settled abroad.

It feels the PM will create avenues for its economic and non-economic engagement with India.

America is among the 11 countries of the world where the Indians number over a million. India has for long reeled under brain drain syndrome with many of qualified Indian doctors, engineers, managers and scientists leaving the country for greener pastures and green backs every year.

Shakti Gupta, Medical Superintendent (MS) in All India Institute of Medical Sciences, India’s premier health care centre, claims 55 per cent of trained graduates (MBBS) from AIIMS go abroad.Gupta says the Government spends on an average Rs 20 million on training of each graduate and most of this funding comes from subsidies.

While 50,000 doctors of Indian origin are estimated to be practising in America. The number stands at 40,000 in United Kingdom. In Canada on the other hand, one out of every 10 physicians is supposed to be of Indian descent.

According to Gupta, who is a member of health committees in the CII and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FICCI), there is a shortage of 700,000 doctors in the country. There is also a shortage of 1 million nurses and 1.4 million paramedic staff.

While 40,000 doctors graduate every year in India, the country has only 10,000 seats for Post Graduate courses.  The FICCI committee on health, headed by Devi Shetty, a prominent Indian Cardiac Surgeon, recently asked the Union Government to increase the PG seats in proportion to the MBBS quota to stop migration of graduate doctors to abroad for higher studies.

Union Health Ministry, headed by Harsh Vardhan, an ENT Specialist, is planning to give permission within 15 days to NRI doctors to serve in India for short stints. It is also going to allow doctors with OCI status to practice in the country.

At the same time it is working on a health portal swasthaindia.com which will give information about requirement and availability of health care services in the states and at the centre.

It is not clear whether the ministry would implement a proposal of earlier government to issue no-objection certificates to doctors wanting to settle in the US after studies on the condition that they will serve in India for two years.

Ministry of Science & Technology, headed by Minister of State (Independent Charge) Jitendra Singh, has instituted a couple of re-entry fellowships – Ramalingaswami and Ramanujan fellowships – to lure Indian scientists back from abroad. The ministry, according to Singh, is already in touch with a dozen scientists and also planning to introduce more re-entry fellowships to make remigration of Indian scientists more lucrative.

But the Indian Diaspora wants much more from Modi Government.

Besides improvement in labour laws, archaic company laws, end of inspector raj and corruption, it wants better work life balance, good infrastructure (security, power supply etc.) and facilitation and rehabilitation system for Indians who return to India from abroad.

“The root cause of migration of Indian talent is government policies. In India it takes minimum two to three months to set up a company. In US you just sign lease agreement, hire a Chartered Accountant and start operating,”

says Anil Bairwal, an IIM (Indian Institute of Management) Ahmedabad alumnus, who returned to New Delhi in 2006 after spending close to a decade in the US.

Bairwal started Mera Health Care Centre in India on return but had a very bad experience.

“Government officials would turn up in my office and demand all kinds of papers,”

he recalls. Bairwal, who did engineering from MNIT (Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology) Allahabad, is not sure whether a Twitter or Face book could have been started in the present work environment in India.

Harsh Kapoor, a gastroenteritis specialist, who chucked up his 1.2 million dollar annual package in Atlanta to take care of his ailing father in India, is disappointed India does not value credentials of individuals and provides them no social security.

Kapoor, who was engaged with high-end Max Hospital in Gurgaon for some time after his return, had to literally run around from pillar to post to buy a house in white and got his children admitted in schools.

“Everybody asked me to pay in black. Where do I get it from? There is no facilitation centre for helping people coming from abroad. The education and medical systems need a complete revamp,”

Kapoor notes.

Ajay Rudrawal, who left his multinational job in the US and returned to India in August 2012, does not expect an immediate reversal of brain drain but is sure that migration of Indian talent will trim down.

 “Not reversal, some correction and balance, as global integration is increasing,”

he responds in an email interview admitting that there is increased optimism in the Indian Diaspora about Modi Government. The mushrooming NRI cities in and around Indian metros confirm the phenomenon.

What takes Indian intellectual capital abroad – lure of lucre, better work environment, better infrastructure.

What brings them back – Emotional connect, possibility of better opportunities.

What they want India to improve on– labour and company laws, security, power supply, end of corruption, red tapism and inspector raj, work environment, facilitation of their rehabilitation and easier tax laws.

About Team PB7