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Indian students in the US are increasingly under pressure to ‘make it’

BY VEENA RAO

May 15, 2024: The recent deaths, incarcerations, and other problems involving Indian students are, in many cases, the result of a recent trend in the semi-urban regions of Telugu-speaking states to send kids to the US “by hook or crook.” Srinivas Jarugula, national coordinator of Team Aid, an organization dedicated to assisting individuals in crises while abroad, says the immense pressure faced by these students to get a job is leading to mental health problems, suicides, and risk-taking behaviors.

The latest case involves Rupesh Chandra Chintakindi, an Indian student initially reported missing, only to be later discovered jailed in Marana City, Arizona, with bail set at $50,000 on charges of fraud. While it is yet to be determined whether Chintakindi committed fraud, his case exemplifies more Indian students getting into crisis situations in the past year or two.

The parents, even those from middle-class or lower-middle-class families, are under pressure to send their kids to the US because everybody else’s son or daughter is there.

“Banks are now giving loans without collateral. The more reputed the college, the bigger the loan amount,” Jarugula says. The students arrive in the US with the sole purpose of getting a job immediately.

Jarugula adds that the pressure on the students has escalated due to a challenging job market.  “The students are competing with locals for jobs at gas stations, restaurants, motels,” he says. Faced with limited job opportunities, some students resort to risky endeavors, including taking up employment in high-crime areas or engaging in unlawful activities.

“Don’t come to the US, if you want to work. The job market is slow,” Jarugula advices Indian students. “Come only if you want to study.”

In response to the job market challenges, Canada has announced measures aimed at reducing the influx of temporary foreign workers, including international students, over the next three years. These measures include capping student permits and tightening the labor market to address decreasing job vacancies. Additionally, Canada has restricted off-campus work for international students to 24 hours per week to prioritize their academic pursuits while still providing employment opportunities.

Meanwhile, The Foundation for India and Indian Diaspora Studies (FIIDS) has called upon US authorities, universities, organizations, and communities to take proactive measures following a surge in deaths among Indian and Indian-origin students. With approximately 275,000 Indian-origin students contributing $9 billion annually to the US economy, FIIDS stresses the urgent need for immediate attention to safeguard student confidence and enrollment.

FIIDS recommendations include bolstering safety education, refining search and rescue protocols, and addressing issues such as fraternity ragging. Moreover, there are calls for investigating reports of hate crimes targeting Indian students and conducting surveys to assess safety concerns. The organization advocates for orientation programs, support networks, and collaboration with diplomatic missions to combat hate crimes, aiming to foster a safer and more inclusive environment for all students while dispelling misinformation and promoting cultural understanding.

As the challenges facing Indian students studying in the US continue to escalate, concerted efforts are essential to address the underlying problems and pressures they face.

Cover photo credit: IANS. Image used for representation.

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