Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Indian Expats in Bangladesh

Indian Expats in Bangladesh
Dr. Habib Siddiqui
A couple of years ago, during my visit to Bangladesh I got a glimpse of globalization inside Bangladesh when I met some Indian Engineers who were working for a reputable home building company. A friend of mine later introduced me to some Indian engineers working for Bangladeshi ship-builders in Chittagong. Over the years I have also come across many Indians who were working for the international companies and NGOs. I did not know how many Indians were gainfully employed inside Bangladesh though.
If you have traveled outside your home country you must have noticed that in much of our world the workforce includes foreigners that are not part of the native community. And that is true for almost all countries except God-forsaken countries like Myanmar (former Burma that has epitomized the apartheid character) and North Korea. In some parts of the world, e.g., the rich Arab Gulf states, the foreign workers comprise the majority of the entire population. Such a global trend should not surprise us any more knowing that our world is becoming more connected and globalized than ever before in its entire history. And people are doing what their ancestors had done since the days of Adam and Eve – they are on the move for a plethora of reasons.
Nearly one billion people – that is, one out of every seven persons on the planet – have migrated internally and across international borders in search of better opportunities and living conditions, with profound implications for development, growth and poverty alleviation in both origin and destination countries. The more prosperous western countries, especially the USA and Canada, have been able to gravitate the best brains providing them opportunities in research and development that are absent in many developing and underdeveloped countries. Much of the innovations have come out of these immigrants energizing the economy in their adopted countries.
According to the United Nations, more than 230 million people are living outside their countries of birth in 2013. It is no surprise either that the expatriates are funneling billions of dollars into the countries that they came from.
According to World Bank's Migration and Remittances Brief, officially recorded remittances to developing countries are estimated at $414 billion in 2013, an increase of 6.3% over the previous year. Global remittance flows, including those to high-income countries, are expected to be $550 billion in 2013. The top recipients of officially recorded remittances are India ($71 billion), China ($60 billion), the Philippines ($26 billion), Mexico ($22 billion), Nigeria ($21 billion), and Egypt ($20 billion). Other large recipients include Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Ukraine. However, as a share of GDP, remittances were larger in smaller and lower income countries; top recipients relative to GDP were Tajikistan (48%), Kyrgyz Republic (31%), Nepal (25%), Lesotho (25%) and Moldova (24%).
Despite the current global economic weakness, remittance flows are expected to continue growing, with global remittances expected to reach $594 billion by 2014, of which $449 billion will flow to developing countries. The remittance to developing countries is projected to rise to $540 billion by 2016. It also noted that globally, migrants pay an average cost of 9% to send money home. Reducing the average remittance price to 5 percent, in line with G8 and G20 targets, could save migrants around $16 billion a year.

In recent years, India has been the largest recipient of remittances in the world. According to the World Bank, India received $69 billion in 2012. What may surprise most Bangladeshis is the little known fact that Bangladesh ranks fifth (behind the UAE, the USA, Saudi Arabia and the UK) among the top 15 countries from which India draws remittance from her expatriates (see the list below for top 8 countries).
1.       UAE: There are millions of Indians staying in UAE and majority of them lives in cities like Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. It is reported that most number of Indians are willing to go to UAE because of the different opportunities that are offered in the field of petroleum, construction and other industries. India received about $14.255 billion as remittance from United Arab Emirates.
2.      USA: Indian expats who are working or settled in USA remit a whopping $10.844 billion to India.
3.      Saudi Arabia: More than a million Indians work in the kingdom. Report shows that people who work in Saudi Arabia send $7.621 billion to their home as a remittance.
4.      UK: Indian expats who stay in U.K send $3.904 billion to their home yearly.
5.      Bangladesh: It is reported that there are Indians who are staying in Bangladesh and there are about 500,000 Indians presently residing. These Indians remit $3.716 billion to their home country and the number is expected to increase in next few years.
6.      Canada: Indian expats who are staying in Canada send home as much as $3.145 billion.
7.      Nepal: Indian expats who stay in Nepal remit $ 2.934 billion to their home country, India.
8.      Oman: Report shows that Indian expats who stay in Oman remit $2.373 billion to India.
The Silicon India News reported that the Indians “who are migrating to Bangladesh illegally are from West Bengal, Meghalaya, Assam, Tripura and Mizoram. According to the government authorities of the country, most of them come in search of job opportunities and mostly work in NGOs, garments and textile industries. These Indians remit $3,716 million to their home country and the number is expected to increase in next few years." (15 Nations Sending Highest Remittances to India, 21 May, 2013) That is, approx. $4 billion is remitted by these half a million illegal Indians working inside Bangladesh. Not a bad number: more than 5% of total Indian remittance coming from ‘poor’ Bangladesh!
Since my childhood I have also known of many Bangladeshi Hindus whose loyalty was to India, and they have been money laundering their wealth and hard-earned income to the family members in West Bengal, Tripura, Meghalaya and Assam. However, until the publication of the World Bank brief on remittance I had no clue that billions of dollars are being remitted to India from Bangladesh.
Oddly, for years, Indian politicians have used the Bangladesh-card to paint a very slanted and damning portrait about the country stating that the ‘poor Bangladeshis’ are illegally crossing into India, taking up jobs, settling in India, etc., as if the poor Bangladeshis can’t find any job inside Bangladesh. That mythical characterization appeared too absurd to me knowing that pay-scale for most jobs inside Bangladesh is higher than offered in nearby states of India, let alone the fact that people simply don’t like to migrate to an unfriendly environment, which does not even pay well.
But little did we know about the humongous Indian influx into Bangladesh. The killing of innocent Bangladeshis along the border by the trigger-happy Indian Border Security Forces in the Bangladeshi soil and no-man’s-land is even presented by Indian authorities as a necessary ‘evil’ to stop those Bangladeshis trying to ‘infiltrate’ into India. Now we know better!
As I have noted several times, secular India has a very unsecular and unsavory record on protecting minority groups. Riots and mayhems are more like norms in this largest democracy - most often initiated and/or promoted by Hindu fanatics of RSS, Vishwa Hindu Parishad - that are parents of BJP - the party that ruled India and will probably come to power again in 2014. Muzaffarnagar last year saw her worst violence in which nearly four dozen Muslims were killed. Thousands of Muslims are afraid to return to their village. More than 100 riots happened in the Uttar Pradesh in just a year. A fact-finding mission found the hands of BJP everywhere. Its leaders have been active in organizing the panchayats and the mahapanchayats in the villages where hate speeches pushed the crowd to take revenge against the Muslims. Slogans against Muslims for killing cows mixed with slogans in support of Narendra Modi rent the air after the series of meetings and mahapanchayats in the villages.
In 2012 more than fifty Muslims were killed in Assam, which borders Bangladesh. The election time is usually a prime time to trigger such riots against Muslims who are used as vote banks by politicians.
If the Indian politicians fail to educate their electorates about Indian influx into Bangladesh and the remittance thereof the Bangladeshi politicians and the government owe it to their people to share the news. Probably the truth on this matter will lower the propensity of politically motivated anti-Muslim religious riots inside India.

All those fuss about ‘Endangered Demography’

Note: The article below from our chairman appeared in the New Age and some other newspapers and Internet site. It refutes Hindutvadi claims against Bangladesh. - BEC

All those fuss about ‘Endangered Demography’
Dr. Habib Siddiqui
I recently came across an article by Tapan Kumar Ghosh, the fanatic leader of Hindu Samhati, in the IBTL, entitled “Bengal's doomed Hindu community,” which requires response to correct the confusion and falsity that he has deliberately tried to create in the mind of his readers. He falsely claims that Islamists from Bangladesh have been infiltrating India virtually turning those bordering districts of India-Bangladesh border into Islamist strongholds.

To support his thesis, Ghosh quotes from Bimal Pramanik, the director of Centre for Research in Indo-Bangla Relations (CRIBR), a front that is long known for its anti-Bangladesh bias and anti-Muslim agenda gravitating extremist Hindus for the Hindutvadi cause. Ghosh writes, “Take the situation in 24 Parganas border district. According to Bimal Pramanik (Endangered Demography: Nature and Impact of Demographic Changes in West Bengal, 1951-2001), ‘The 1981-1991 decade witnessed a massive growth rate of Muslim population, viz. 41.47%. This obviously is due to Muslim infiltration from Bangladesh. Consequently, the share of Muslim population rose from 22.43% (1971) to 24.22% (2001) within three decades, in spite of a massive Hindu immigration from Bangladesh during the same period. It will be more revealing if we go through the Block-level demographic changes. It needs a special mention that a large number of Muslims who had migrated to East Pakistan after Partition came back to this district not only during 1951-1971 but also after 1971, and this remains a persistent trend till today. Another important feature that needs mention in this connection is the continuous in-flow of Urdu speaking Muslims from Bangladesh after 1971.’”

The above statement by Bimal Pramanik (and Tapan Ghosh) tries to create false impression about the entire cross border movement of people since 1947. It is faulty, to say the least. When India was partitioned some Hindus who did not like Jinnah's Two-Nation theory volunteered to leave Pakistan and settle in India. Some Muslims, likewise, moved to Pakistan from India. Over the years (and even decades), for a plethora of reasons, which are quite normal for the first generation of refugees, many of the refugees decided to return to their previous homes. And this phenomenon is not unique to any particular religious group.
In a collaborative research work between Johns Hopkins, Harvard, MIT and Fordham universities entitled “The Demographic Impact of Partition: Bengal in 1947,” the authors (K. Hill et al.) note that “Unlike the experience in the Punjab, where the bulk of Partition related migration was over by the end of 1947, migration of Bengali Hindus to India and of Bengali Moslems to East Pakistan continued through 1951, and indeed continued episodically over at least the next two decades.” So far from the myth that Ghosh and Paramanik try to create in the minds of their gullible readers, we notice that cross border migration of both Hindus and Muslims had continued for quite some time when many Hindus who had migrated to India returned to East Pakistan and similarly many Muslims – both Urdu and Bengali speaking – later returned to India. After Bangladesh became an independent state in 1971, many Hindus who had migrated to India and settled there earlier during the Pakistan era returned to Bangladesh, and many later decided to go back to India.
As to the Urdu-speaking people inside Bangladesh, commonly known as the Biharis who opposed the division of Pakistan, many of them opted to be settled in Pakistan, which did not happen except for a very small fraction. Most of them ended up living in the Red Cross Camps in various cities and later accepted Bangladeshi citizenship. If these so-called Biharis were to return to India, it is conceivable that they would settle in Bihar and not in West Bengal.
When one emigrant group’s (i.e., Hindu) return is welcome while another group’s (i.e., Muslim) return is frowned upon and depicted as ‘Islamist infiltration’, it is not difficult to see clear signs of bias of which Ghosh and Pramanik are guilty of.
Contrary to the claims made by the above Hindu leaders that the decade of 1981-1991 witnessed a ‘massive growth rate of Muslim population, viz. 41.47%’, in the 24 Pargana district there is no data whatsoever to support this outlandish assertion.
To understand the share of Muslim population rising from 22.43% in 1971 to 24.22% in 2001 in 24 Pargana district (more correctly, North 24 Pargana; see Table 1 for the Indian census report 2001), which is falsely attributed to massive Muslim immigration from Bangladesh, one simply has to look at the annual growth rate amongst Hindus and Muslims in an unbiased way, away from slogans and propaganda.
Table 1: Indian Census on West Bengal Population (2001)
Total Population
Muslim Population
% Muslim


For this purpose, let’s take the 1931-41 Bengal census data of the British era (years before large-scale migration along the borders took place) as the basis of our analysis. The census data (Table 2) show that Hindu annual growth rate was less than that of Muslim, e.g., by nearly 0.25%.
Table 2: 1931-41 Population in joint-Bengal (British Census – without the Tribals)


Total population in '000
Annual Hindu growth rate

Annual Muslim growth rate

It won't require an Einstein to do the math and find that Muslim proportion in 24 Pargana and some other Indian district has now gone up after decades (Table 1). Bottom line: for the Muslim population to grow to 24.22% after 30 years in North 24 Pargana it did not require any infiltration from outside; it was all natural, organic growth!

Anti-Muslim fanatics and bigots like Ghosh and Paramanik willfully twist and hide facts to prove their voodoo endangerment theory. They won’t tell their mesmerized audience lots of things fundamental to understanding migration statistics but are in the habit of making mountains out of moles to prove their concocted theory, which only implants hatred and intolerance in a world that is increasingly becoming global and connected where the borders of yesterday are either being viewed as too artificial or losing old meanings. It is no surprise, therefore, that half a million Indians are working inside Bangladesh today remitting nearly four billion US dollars to India. But such information won’t be shared by chauvinist guys that are in the business of selling poison pills to foment division and animosity between religious groups.

Ghosh believes that the West Bengal government – CPI (M) and TMC alike – has been in the habit of appeasing Muslims. Forgotten there is the mere fact that Muslim share in government jobs is below 4% statewide in spite of Muslims comprising more than a quarter of West Bengal state’s population. Is that appeasement or discrimination? Hateful provocateurs like Ghosh usually have tunnel vision when it comes to the ‘other’ people!
In 2005, the Indian government appointed the Sachar Commission to investigate whether Muslims were disadvantaged in social, economic and educational terms. The commission concluded in 2006 that the socio-economic condition of most Muslims was as bad as that of the Dalits, who are at the bottom rung of the Hindu-caste hierarchy, also referred to as the "untouchables." It found that the overall percentage of Muslims in bureaucracy in India was just 2.5% whereas Muslims constituted above 14% of Indian population; Muslims who should have qualified for affirmative action were not getting it, even though they were living in greater poverty than some groups that were getting the benefit. Though heavily urban, Muslims had a particularly low share of public (or any formal) jobs, school and university places, and seats in politics. They earned less than other groups, were more excluded from banks and other finance, spent fewer years in school and had lower literacy rates. Very few were admitted in the armed and police forces.
Nearly eight years have passed since the report was released. Has the condition of neglected Muslims improved in India? A 2013 study by an American think-tank, the US-India Policy Institute, assessing progress since the Sachar report, bluntly concluded that Muslims have “not shown any measurable improvement”. Even in education, Muslims’ gains were typically more modest than other groups’. Too many official efforts to direct help, for example by spending more on schools in Muslim districts, also failed; funds got stolen or diverted to non-Muslim recipients. Muslims continue to face daily discrimination. They have to hide their religious identity or pretend that they are Hindus for even a menial job.
As noted by social activist Prof. Ram Puniyani, soon after 2002 communal violence in western Gujarat state several Hindu organizations launched a propaganda campaign asking Hindus to boycott Muslims in all day-to-day dealings, much like what Wirathu and his 969 Fascist Movement are doing today in Myanmar.
Let Ghosh and his ilk compare the dismal job status of minority Muslims in ‘secular’ India against minority Hindus employed in the government sector of Bangladesh, which he calls an Islamic Republic. Hindus in Bangladesh represent less than 10% of the population and yet their share in the public sector is several fold their share in the population (interested readers can view my blog http://drhabibsiddiqui.blogspot.com/ to see a short list of top ranked Hindu bureaucrats working within the Bangladesh government).

It is sheer falsehood that Bimal Pramanik and Tapan Kumar Ghosh are trying to sell to create hatred and intolerance against Muslims. As brain-children of Goebbels and followers Hindutvadi fascist theology they know too well that if falsehood is oft repeated it achieves the veneer of truth and some are sure to swallow it. They are counting on it, and it is for conscientious people on all sides to challenge them and defeat their heinous design to divide us into hateful camps. Surely, falsehood is ever weak and bound to be defeated.