Around the world, there are more than 30 million (3 crores) overseas Indians. Overseas Indians includes non-resident Indians (NRI) and Persons of Indian Origin (PIO). Just in the US, the population of overseas Indians is around 4.5 million out of which around 3.2 million are PIOs and 1. 3 million are NRIs. The numbers are big and so is the influence. Today, the overseas Indians who are living in the US are one of the finest examples and great role models not only for the immigrants around the world but also for the general US population and it’s all thanks to the productivity, wealth, success and richness that the overseas Indians have brought by transforming and touching their adopted home not just economically but also spiritually.
The first question that comes to one’s mind is that who is an actual immigrant in the US? How do you really define an immigrant in the USA? Who does the US really belong to? When we talk about the natives in the US, are we talking about the indigenous Americans (Alaska native/American Indians) or someone else? But, regardless, as a country, the USA is one of the most interesting experiments that have taken place in the very recent history of our world. Only time will tell if this experiment will fail or succeed as this experiment is in a very early stage and it is yet to face the test of time, but without an element of doubt, as a country, the USA is one of the most influential countries of our planet. But behind all this, there is another side of the USA and for some reasons, the mainstream international media does not give enough coverage to this side of theirs.
Poverty in the USA
Even after calling itself a superpower of the world for many decades, the US continues to suffer from embarrassing problems like hunger, poverty and wealth inequality. In 2015,43.1 million people in the US were in poverty which even includes 14.5 million children who are under the age of 18. When it comes to hunger, 42.2 million Americans live in food-insecure households, including more than 13 million children who continue to go to bed hungry. It is extremely painful to notice that nearly 12 to 13 % of the entire population of the US suffers from hunger and poverty.
The USA – a land full of contrasts
The United States of America, a Christian majority nation with 83% Christians is a land of sharp contrasts. It has the largest GDP in nominal terms, it has the largest external debt and it also has the largest percentage of population which lives in its prisons. It is absolutely shocking that out of every 100,000 people in the US, 724 are actually in prisons. In fact, 25 % percent of the whole world’s prison population is from the United States. The story of the US is not complete without mentioning the achievements of NASA and the blockbusters of Hollywood but on the other hand, there is this thriving porn industry, gun violence and a very high rape rate (here you can read how to calculate rapes).
Missionaries from the US
It is extremely surprising that with so much of poverty, hunger, wealth inequality and violence and with millions of Americans who so desperately need help in their own Christian majority country, USA continues to send the most number of Christian missionaries worldwide and a lot of them come to India. According to a calculation by CSGC (Center for the Study of Global Christianity) out of 400,000 Christian missionaries who are sent in a year around the world, 127,000 are just from the US. One may wonder why the Christian missionaries of the USA are so keen to help the rest of the world especially when their own people are suffering from poverty and hunger. Maybe it’s time that they listen to their new president who says- ”America first”.
Homeless in the US
Perhaps the president of America is not entirely wrong, as the United States face a huge challenge of providing homes to its 1.6 million homeless people (as recorded in 2008-2009) out of which nearly 58 thousands (as recorded in 2013) are those who have served in the US Army and are today living on the streets. And after the economic recession of 2008 , it is said that the situation has got even worse. On the other hand, India has a very ambitious plan to provide a house to all its citizens by 2022, A mission which is also known as ”Housing for all by 2022”. Only time will tell if India is able to achieve this or not and hence it will be interesting to observe the developments.
There is no doubt that India has its own share of problems as well, especially when the country is trying hard to recover after a brutal British rule that destroyed India’s thriving economy. India is taking slow, steady and solid steps in an environment that we can call extremely democratic. And that is why there is a lot of potential for India and the US to help each other and make many positive links in trade, defense, space and many other fields. Further, India is extremely important geopolitically and according to many experts, India has an important role in the new superpower axis that is being formed. In a survey that was conducted by PwC and Indo-American Chamber of Commerce (IACC), Indo-US bilateral trade has the potential to touch $500 B by 2025.
Importance of Indians in the USA
Today, overseas Indians who are living in the US are playing a massive role in the US economy. According to Merrill Lynch, there were 200,000 millionaires of Indian origin back in times when the population of overseas Indians was far lesser than what it is today. Considering the little population of the people of Indian origin that is an extraordinary number. Not just that, there are around 223,000 Indian-owned firms in the US that employ more than 600,000 employees. During the recession in the US which caused an economic collapse resulting in suicides of more than 10,000 people and making many homeless, Indian companies came to the rescue by employing around 60,000 people. According to a 2014 study, 15% of start-ups in Silicon Valley were founded by Indians even though Indians made just 6% of the Valley’s working population and what is even more astonishing is that Indians alone founded more start-ups than the next four combined which were China, Japan, Britain and Taiwan. According to Safra Catz, the CEO of the Software major Oracle Corporation, 75% of its management is actually from India. And not to forget that Pepsi, Microsoft, MasterCard, Google, Adobe, SanDisk, all of them have one thing in common and that is their CEOs who have at least finished their graduation (bachelors) from India. Not just that, according to National Foundation for American Policy, among all immigrants, India was the leading country of origin with 14 founders of billion dollar companies.
Well, there is no surprise that Indian-Americans turned out as the richest ethnic communities in the US with a median income of around 100,000 USD (65 lakhs per year) according to a report by US Census Bureau in 2013. Socioeconomically, Indian Americans lead every other ethnic group in the US . 71% of all Indians have a bachelor’s degree or higher and in comparison, the national average is just 28% while 44% is the average of all Asian American groups. 40% of all Indians in the United States have a doctorate, master’s degree or other professional degree which is again five times the national average. Not just that, there are thousands of Indian – Americans who serve as faculties in the universities across the US. Around 10% of the physicians in the US are of Indian origin. Very interestingly, among 29 million scientists and engineers in the US, almost 1 million are Indian, more than any other country in the world, actually even more than the entire Europe. Not just that, nearly 35% or even more hotels in the US are owned by Indians and a vast majority of them are owned by the Patels of Gujarat. Further, Indian Americans are playing an active role in the politics, media and entertainment.
Social values of Indians
The overseas Indians have had so much of success and during all this they have also demonstrated the importance of family bond, values and relationship as 71% of adult Indian Americans are married, a percentage much higher than the rest of the Americans who now mostly live a single life. The share of unmarried mothers is just around 2.3% in Indian Americans while the nation’s average is 37%. In a way, Indian Americans have shown that one does not have to be single to earn money or success because a beautiful family and a beautiful career can go hand in hand and that is how Indians do it. And in the end, I was not even surprised when I learned that overseas Indians living in the US are very disciplined, well behaved and have a very low crime rate but still many of them continue to be harassed for their skin color, for their ethnicity and sadly many people of Indian origins have lost their lives facing terrible hate crimes and racial discrimination that continue to happen in the US.
On the other hand, the importance of India’s spiritual heritage in the US in form of Yoga and Ayurveda is massive which has been helping in evolution of consciousness of many American citizens and is providing thousands of jobs to its citizens in a thriving 27 billion USD Yoga industry with more than 36 million Yoga practitioners (here and here you can read more about yoga). As one can expect, India’s spiritual heritage is also frequently relabeled and rebranded in the USA as mind sciences, wellness science, cognitive science, self-improvement by various American individuals and entrepreneurs making it another multi-billion dollar industry of something that may eventually be called the new age American intellectual asset.
Remittances flow to India
The Indian Diaspora in the US is known for their tremendous contribution to social causes, philanthropic work and also for sending billions to India in remittances. India receives 13 billion USD annually just from the overseas Indians living in the US. And globally, India is the biggest receiver of remittances with around 67 billion USD that it receives from its people. And probably the emotional bond between the overseas Indians and India exists because of one fact which they are aware of, that no matter how far they go to any part of this globe, whether they succeed or run into trouble, the country of their origin is always ready to welcome them or support them with open arms.
We no longer live in the world which has only one superpower anymore as the countries like India and China are becoming the new centers of action. Since the economic boom of India perhaps seem inevitable, probably the US has no choice but to ensure and calculate how it can benefit itself by India’s economic boom, how it can get the biggest chunk out of India’s growth story and that is exactly what they are trying to do as today the US is hungrier than it has ever been before to have the engagement, collaborations and partnerships with India at different levels. It is an opportunity for the overseas Indians and for the people of India to participate in this spectacular phenomenon, because it were Indians who suffered from the atrocities by their ex-colonizers in their own land, it were Indians who waited patiently for hundreds of years for times like these. It is their land and it is their story.