When Mohan Bhargava, a NASA scientist in the US, returns back to his village in India he is not really sure what to expect. He hires a caravan and hoards it with mineral water. From his high-end life in the US where everything is just a click away, the life in the village is quite gloomy – literally. While he deals with many issues popular in India, he tried to solve the perennial electricity problem. He uses his intellect to generate electricity for the entire village. Mohan is a fictional character played by Shah Rukh in the movie Swades.
That movie was not a commercial success except for Rahman’s music. But, it gave a glimpse of two things :
- The reverse brain drain is actually possible. Not at the pace India would like or need but at its own pace. America and UK might actually be helping India’s cause.
- Whenever it happens, there will be phenomenal changes that can take place in India at both urban and rural level. Swades movie also tells us what can really happen when the young and educated actually return back to India.
When Nehru initiated the IIT’s in India, his plan was to develop the best talent in India for India. His dream was half realized. The talent was developed in India but the talent has left to the US, for better salaries and life. Pre-90’s life was a filled with little entrepreneurship and a lot of socialism. This is not what the young and educated wanted. India just could not provide the kind of life Indian educated need. In fact, the IIT graduates were the biggest export to the US until India’s software exports came along.
If better quality of Life and better prospects were the reasons for the brain drain, ironically they are the same reasons for the reverse brain drain. In addition to it there are two more reasons – proximity to family and culture.
Researchers at Duke and Harvard Universities tracked down 1203 people on LinkedIn who has returned back to their home countries – India and China. These people had masters or doctoral degrees and went back to their home countries to pursue their dreams. The main reasons given by them are – family and better prospects.
“Having worked in the U.S., they have skills that make them more valuable back home,” said the study’s principal author, Vivek Wadwha, a researcher on immigration and labor issues at Duke and Harvard. “They go back home and live like kings.” Mercury News
Nothing can beat that feeling. How can the people coming back from the US help India? There can be multiple answers for that, let us see what they did in the US.
Despite the fact that they constitute only 12% of the U.S. population, immigrants have started 52% of Silicon Valley’s technology companies and contributed to more than 25% of our global patents. They make up 24% of the U.S. science and engineering workforce holding bachelor’s degrees and 47% of science and engineering workers who have PhDs. Immigrants have co-founded firms such as Google (GOOG), Intel (INTC), eBay (EBAY), and Yahoo! (BusinessWeek)
Immigrants has helped immensely for the American economy. So strong and visible is their contribution, Microsoft has lobbied the Obama administration for an increase in the number of H1-B’s and also providing green cards or permanent residence to the foreign students there. It is ironic that the land of immigrants is turning against them in the latest bid of protectionism
I can see this already happening around me. There are few folks who came back to India to take managerial positions. There are also silicon valley based Indian-born investors who are actively looking for funding many of the Indian startups. Few people have re-located to India to start their own company.
If they come back even in fewer numbers it would do wonders for India. The estimate is around 1 lakh people will come back to India in the next 3-5 years. NRI which used to stand for Non Returning Indians now actually stands for Now Returning Indians.
PS : It would be unfair for me if I don’t acknowledge a very important event that actually helped the reverse brain drain. The golden summer of 1991 engineered by our Dr.Manmohan Singh and purported by Late PV Narasimha Rao