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.

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