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

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

      They had logic on their side. 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 was 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 lives a little difficult.  

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

      For several years after moving to Canada, we noted how people within our family's circle of friends 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 right-wing Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This month marks his eighth year in power.  

      A majority of those who voted him into office 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 seem to be bothered about the truth of malnutrition among tribal children of Gujarat, nor the environment of polarization created in that state by Modi.  

      In 2002, thousands of Muslims were killed by the goons belonging to Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after a train caught fire, leaving more than 50 Hindu pilgrims dead. Modi blamed Islamic extremists for the incident. The anti-Muslim pogrom that followed happened on his watch.

      As a result, Modi was denied a visa by several countries, including the U.S., until he was elected as the prime minister.  

      However, despite high expectations for Modi, migration from his country has increased. There is also skepticism about the prospects of any huge foreign investments being made as attacks on religious minorities and political dissidents have grown under his rule.  

      Not surprisingly, 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, immigration from India in 2015 accounted for 14.5 percent of all who came to this country. India ranked number two after the Philippines.

      A year later, in 2016, the trend remained almost similar: the Philippines number one with 14 percent and India at 13 percent. In 2017, India ranked number one with 18 percent and the Philippines moved down to the number two position. Since then India has remained on top.

      Rather, the share 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 have been forced to go to countries like Ukraine for higher studies due to the lack of infrastructure in India. The recent invasion of Russia has exposed how India failed these students.

      Not only was Modi unable to provide for them in their own country, there was no timely aid given when they were caught in trouble in Ukraine. Instead some of the 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, the four members of a Gujarati family died earlier this year near Manitoba after being exposed to extreme weather conditions while trying to cross over to the U.S. The Patel couple and their two children, aged 11 and 3, perished.

      If people from Modi’s Gujarat could be so desperate, one can imagine what the poor and the oppressed must 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 himself in power.