Indians continue to head for Australia

Vrinda Sharma

Recent racial attacks on Indians have failed to deter students from Punjab

CHANDIGARH: Despite the racial attacks on Indian students in Australia, there is no slump in the number of students seeking admission to Australian universities from Punjab. Presently around 93,000 Indian students are studying in Australia and over 40 per cent of them are from Punjab.

“There has been no decline in the number of applications we are receiving for Australian student visas. We did receive some calls from anxious parents, but things are settling down,” says Naresh Gulati, CEO of Oceanic Consultants, who sent over 3,000 Indian students to Australia on study visa last year.

“We have assured parents about the safety of their wards as our officials are in constant contact with Indian students in Australia,” he adds.

According to Joban Singh, 22, who intends to pursue his Master’s in Hotel Management from Melbourne, racial attacks cannot deter year-long preparations. “No one feels scared of going to Delhi or Mumbai after attacks there and the same is true for Melbourne. My parents are a little nervous, but that is not entirely due to the attacks,” he adds. Slamming the attacks, Naresh Gulati says, “While the recent attacks on Indian students are very unfortunate, it is wrong to associate the entire country with racism. Australia is a very conducive and non-racist place that really encourages students to settle there. My whole family is living there and we have not faced any kind of discrimination so far.”

Despite reassurance from placement consultants, many parents are full of anxiety. Mangat Rai Garg and his wife, whose son Rajat Garg died in Melbourne in February 2009, urge others to avoid sending their children to Australia. “There is massive discrimination and no one can ensure safety or justice to Indians. Our son’s death was declared a suicide even though we are sure that he was murdered.” says Mr. Garg.

“The very fact that thousands of Punjabi children choose Australia for further education proves how safe it is. The situation is not as tense as the Australian Government is earning huge revenue from international students so they would guarantee their safety. In most of the cases, students are going there to earn permanent residence status as formalities there are less cumbersome if we compare it with other developed countries,” says Atul Malhotra, Managing Director of Bright Overseas Consultancy.

According to International Education Career Consultants here, enquiries for study in Australia and the neighbouring New Zealand continue to pour in. “Even those from middle-class backgrounds want to study abroad. Parents take bank loans, borrow money from family and friends…..anything to get their child a foreign degree,” says Neha Ghai of IECC.