In the name of academic freedom, if Western professors start denigrating and launching vituperative attacks on Indians, their beliefs, traditions and values, then it becomes necessary to educate them about the monetary worth of each Indian student.

An invitation to deliver an anti-drugs awareness talk in a prestigious school turned out to be a great eye-opener. The welcome speech and introduction by the principal, threw light on an insidious problem that is yet to be publicly debated. The principal enthusiastically remarked that this is an elite institution, meant for the financially well-off segment or more appropriately the nouveau riche, and proceeded to tell that all the students were fully focused on going abroad by way of higher studies and thereafter taking up citizenship in Western countries. As if to prove her words, she asked the student-aspirants wanting to go abroad to raise their hands. Without exception the approximately 200-strong students of Classes X, XI and XII raised their hands without hesitation. A worrisome trend of trafficking in intelligent students to the West has been going on uninterruptedly for the last decade or so. Brilliant children of industrialists, bureaucrats, intellectuals, scholars, and professionals in diverse fields, are quietly flocking to Western countries as also to Australia and New Zealand.
Private educational institutions, supported by an efficient team of educational consultants, representatives of American and Western universities, career guidance and academic guidance specialists, immigration specialists, offer end to end education services ranging from international education counseling, admission, visa, assistance to scholarship, overseas education loans, forex, flight ticketing and accommodation services. Students are thoroughly groomed and prepared to face any examination, be it IELTS, TOEFL, PTE, OET, ACT, GRE, GMAT, or SAT. There are stiff minimum cut-off marks that need to be achieved in order to gain entry to prestigious Ivy League universities and other well-known universities. There are no mark relaxations of any kind for any community or creed. Only the brilliant are welcome.
The US embassy in India issued a record-breaking 82,000 student visas till September 2022. Indian students received more US student visas than any other country. The British High Commission granted 1.27 lakh student visas to Indians in the year ending September 2022. During this period, Australia gave around 9,000 student visas, while Canada received approximately 123,500 study permit applications in just the first five months of 2022. Many small European countries, with no great track record for quality education, like Estonia, Georgia, Moldova, Malta, and many more have opened up to grab a piece of the pie.
Quality students are being delivered free of cost at the doorsteps of Western universities. The Indian students pay for everything, ranging from language capability assessment fees, subject proficiency testing fees, university processing fees, visa fees, consultancy fees, airline ticket charges, student hostel fees, and first semester fees. Each and every fee is exorbitant. The relocating of brilliant students in Western countries is being exploited to the hilt by biased Western agencies. With absolutely zero investment, Western universities get the most brilliant of Indian students delivered at their doorsteps.
The cost for such expensive education is met by availing bank loans, mortgaging property, selling jewelry, and other borrowings. The brilliant just want to leave the country, whatever be the cost. There is a firm belief that there is no place for merit in India. The consequences of this attitude can have far reaching repercussions.
Today, many American universities have become a fertile ground for anti-India propaganda. Intelligence agencies, NGOs, media barons have cultivated the staff and students to indulge in hostile propaganda against their motherland. Targeted false propaganda is directed against India, and Hinduism in particular, apart from the usual vitriol about harassment by Indian security forces in Kashmir. The purpose of the “Dismantling Global Hindutva” conference, which was stage-managed in a few American universities was to paint Hinduism black. While the organisers of this event remained anonymous, they took great pains to portray Hindus as purveyors of extremism; Hindu philosophy, thought and social practices were denounced as diabolical. An online conference, “Dismantling Global Hindutva: Multidisciplinary Perspectives” was held on 10-12 September 2021. It was organised and co-sponsored by several history, South Asian studies, human rights, political science, religious studies and other multi-disciplinary departments and centers at several US, European and Canadian universities, including Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, University of California at Berkeley, and University of Toronto. These universities depend on Indian students for their very survival and the staff for their bread and butter. The standard tuition fee for the 2022-2023 academic year at Harvard is $52,659, without any financial aid; room and board and other fees bring the total price tag to a whopping $76,763. Most of the Ivy League universities boast of similar hefty price tags.
The considerable presence of Indian students on American campuses should mean that they are treated with respect and dignity. In the name of academic freedom, if professors and the supporting teaching staff, start denigrating and launching vituperative attacks on Indians, their beliefs, traditions and values, then it becomes necessary to educate them about the monetary worth of each Indian student.
For this purpose, the Government needs to make it mandatory for all foreign universities intending to recruit Indian students to register with the Ministry of Education. Eligibility for student education loans will be only for studies in these registered universities. These universities will need to guarantee that all students will be treated with respect and dignity, and that their campuses will not be used for any kind of anti-India programs, seminars and events. In the event of violation of this condition, Indian banks can be advised not to entertain any loan application for study in that university. It will be curtains down for those rouge universities that encourage their premises for anti-India activities.
However, the phenomenon of brilliant students leaving their motherland and relocating to Western countries is India’s unique problem. There is talk of “food security”, “energy security”, but hardly anybody talks about “intellectual security”. If the brightest and intelligent young minds move away from their motherland, can the country in future be run by the mediocre? Can the country’s civil services, defence services, health services be entrusted to people of low calibre? How do we ensure and safeguard the intellectual security of the nation? This needs a national debate and appropriate legislation, for intellectual security is an essential precondition for sustainable development. Goal Number 4 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations is about quality education. Intellectual trafficking and talent trafficking on an annual basis are a grave impediment for the country’s future development. Brilliant young minds are unfortunately convinced at a very tender age that a full assessment of their talents, creativity and qualifications is not possible in this country, due to a variety of social, political and economic issues. The government should convene a meeting of educationists, administrators, bankers and industrialists to find a way out of this impasse. Perhaps several oases of brilliance need to be set up, devoted for nurturing only intellectual giants, who can guide and lead the nation through the coming decades.

Dr G. Shreekumar Menon, IRS (Retd), PhD (Narcotics) is former Director General, National Academy of Customs, Indirect Taxes & Narcotics.