While Canberra tightens education standards and late night security, Indians settled here feel something must be done about agents back home who sell dreams in which dubious education is the visa to Australian citizenship.
“It is important to reassure parents. The truth is that we are a very safe society. There will be incidents but we will ensure that incidents of these circumstances will be significantly diminished,” says Australian Trade Minister Simon Crean.
However, he warned: “To address the quality of education, the effort has to be at both ends. The effort has to be extended to India too. What is happening is that some, rather than selling a quality product, sell visas. They turn it into an easy way to get entry into the country.” “Because of rogue colleges, rogue students come who were sent by rogue agents,” says Vasan Srinivasan, President of the Federation of Indian Association of Victoria (FIAV). “I have been here for 23 years and have a 17-year-old daughter. Would I be sitting here if the country was not safe?,” he adds, bristling at the sensational coverage of the attacks by Indian students that prompted his relatives in India to call up and find out whether he had also been singled out.
Speaking further about rogue India-based agents, FIAV office-bearers mention several instances of agents misleading potential students, leaving them financially short in Australia. This in turn forces them to take up jobs that get over late at night and accommodation in cheaper and less secure parts of the town.
“The agents take Rs.3 lakh to process applications and then mislead them by telling them that fees for one semester are enough, after which the student can then work his way through,” they say.
Mr. Srinivasan tells of the son of a well-known South Indian doctor who he encountered dragging his trolley suitcase from the airport late at night. It turned out that among other things, the agent had told him the city was just a 20 minute walk from the airport. “Fortunately we saw him at midnight and gave him a lift. There is greed out there,” he recalls.
Mr. Crean points out that education is his country’s third largest export earner, the reason being the quality of the product. The Government has now toughened accreditation norms and has asked all institutions to get fresh evaluation by the end of next year. The Australian Government has also heard about hair dressing courses that entail two classes of an hour each per week and is engaged in changing the points system as well, he says.
The Indian media is also seen as being too shrill. A car that skidded off the road and hit a Gurudwara fence was depicted as an attack on the temple. A car that caught fire after a short circuit also became the subject of an animated discussion on racism in the Indian media.
While the Ministry of External Affairs has put out guidelines, there is unanimity on the need to put a stop to immigration agents in India trying to push through the economically challenged as students to help them immigrate. This is where most problems start — from being overawed by the society to making themselves vulnerable while returning from work at night, or turning to jobs that have a high risk element like taxi driving.