As I was making my decision to move back to India, I was grappling with two distinctively contrasting emotions. The raw excitement of homecoming, and the nervousness of what the future holds. But the former trumped the latter and here I am penning down my final thoughts at 11,886 m altitude, in transit. I am still 2,543 miles away from home, and flying over Medina at this moment as per the flight navigation display.
My initial scepticism perhaps stemmed from the many intrusive questions of otherwise well-meaning people who initially left India to study abroad, then decided to stay back for a few years to gain ‘work experience’, but never came back. Some of the popular and frequently asked questions were: ‘Is it because your visa is running out?’, ‘Did you fail to graduate?’, ‘Are you not finding a suitable job?’
In case you are wondering the same, the answer is, “no”. My residency permit is valid for another two-and-a-half years, I graduated with a merit classification from a university currently ranked No.1 in the world, and had a job at the most prestigious establishment in the United Kingdom—the British Parliament. It’s a popular perception that failures go back home. Contrary to these opinions, some of the world’s most successful establishments actually started from garages at home by people who defied conventional paths to success and stepped off their comfort zones.
Brain drain, or the human capital flight, has been one of the malignant problems of the developing and the recently developed world, where there is a sizeable emigration of highly skilled workforce from their countries of origin in search of a better standard of living. The Indian diaspora is one of the biggest immigrant populations at 17.5 million worldwide—more people than the entire population of the Netherlands, Ecuador or Syria. While India currently tops the list, it is closely followed by China and the Philippines.
This phenomenon places a severe drain on India’s resources. Not just due to the loss of human capital, but also due to the additional loss of the investment that the Indian society collectively made to accumulate that level of human capital. The encouragement, support and countless acts of kindness that the society extended to the emigrating individuals. The sad reality of the situation is that the talented people born, raised and educated in India have often bailed out when it was time to work and repay what they were provided. They chose to leave.
For decades, the brain drain has contributed to reduced economic growth, demographic shifts, and limited the innovative capacities of the nation. It has cost us the ability to progress much faster than we currently are. All the more making it very imperative for India to plug the phenomenon. In addition to legislative provisions and jobs creation, it is also important for the society as a whole to accommodate and encourage the reverse brain drain.
We need to collectively change our perception and stop regarding the ‘NRI’ tag as a feather in our cap. It is the moment to rally our moral support to the few who have chosen impact over money, country above self, and gain over drain.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the stand of this publication.)