Instead of raising a hue and cry about the spate of attacks on Indian students in Australia, the Government of India should provide support on the ground, Vasan Srinivasan, president of the Federation of Indian Associations of Victoria (FIAV), has said.
The government failed to appoint a single full-time official for the affected students at its consular office in Melbourne, where a number of the attacks took place, Mr. Srinivasan told The Hindu on Sunday.
“The Australian government has come up with a series of steps to contain ‘rogue colleges.”
The Victorian government has agreed to our demand to create an Indian ‘precinct’ in Melbourne and are planning a 24-hour hotline to help international students,” he said. The Victorian police have also appointed community licence officers to interact with Indian and other international students.
In contrast, Mr. Srinivasan said, the Indian consulate did not increase its interactions with students in spite of many complaints. “The government should create a list of dos and don’ts for Indian students going abroad. It should also manage its interactions with the student diaspora in a better way,” he said.
While expressing concern over the fresh attacks in the New Year, he said that calling them “racist” would not help solve the problems. “Many students take up low-paying jobs in some unsavoury localities. They are also forced by their financial situation sometimes to live in localities with high crime rates.”
There was also a cultural and social maladjustment of Indian students to the Australian society. Many students went there to gain the permanent resident status and did not want to report crimes to the Australian police for fear of getting on the police records.
“There were a string of smaller-scale attacks earlier, which were not reported to the police. When criminal elements found Indians ‘soft targets,’ they stepped up these attacks. This does not happen with students from Singapore or China because they have evolved better support systems,” he said.
Mr. Srinivasan said the FIAV was operating a 40-hour (a week) helpline for students and it would be moving into its new office in the Indian precinct from February 1.
It was also working with the government to provide, among other things, a 24-hour hotline for international students.
“With these measures, and with more support from the Indian government, many of the problems can be solved. At the other end of the spectrum, we are also working to eliminate ‘rogue colleges’ in Australia and unscrupulous education and immigration consultants and provide students with continuous support,” he said.
This would be more helpful than labelling these crimes as “racist” when they were in fact more opportunistic in nature, said Mr. Srinivasan, who also runs an education consultancy.