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Hey Kid, do you plan to return from America?

First, a plug for Economic & Political Weekly (EPW) published in Mumbai.  Known for its bold and independent viewpoint, and in depth research and analysis, every week it brings together the writings of academics, economists, political activists and social scientists. I encourage you to learn more about EPW here (even as I make myself the promise to read it more regularly for its unique insight and opinion). According to Outlook India, “The government usually reacts to most newspaper stories and editorials, but the EPW is in another bracket altogether. Its editorials go verbatim into government reports”.

Now, a plug for C. Ramanohar Reddy, EPW’s current editor.   In 2007, Outlook India named him to The Alternative Power List of 25 People Who Will Never Make it to the Power ListThe subtext of this list was: Thinking change in India is a thankless task. A few who are sticking it out for the greater common good.  Be sure to check out the rest of this awesome list.   (And oh yeah, it’s also pretty neat to be able to say that I happen to know him).

Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA

This post is a result of reading an article published in EPW on May 21st : Will They Return? Indian Students in the United States.  Many noteworthy points and specifics are included in the article. I merely present some interesting “macro-statistics” here.

First, it is based on a recent survey done with 1000 current and past Indian graduate students in the US.  The core question was to determine whether they plan to return to India, and if so (or if not), what their primary reasons for doing so (or not) were.  Note that 85% of the respondents were under 30 and 73% were male.

Interesting survey, wouldn’t you say?  Would you venture a guess as to what  some of their answers were?  Read on below.

Here are the high-level results from this survey –

  • The majority of the respondents, a whopping 74%, plan to return to India eventually (or had already done so)
  • 53% of the total sample planned to get work experience in the U.S.
  • Singles were less likely to return than married respondents
  • Over 75% wanted to return to jobs in the private sector; far fewer in public sector or politics
  • Most significant reasons for desire to return to India were:
      1. Family
      2. Desire to give back to motherland
  • Most significant deterrents to returning to India
      1. Corruption
      2. Red tape
      3. Academic work environment

[Do read more about this survey and the reasons for it here.   I have merely covered a few of the highlights].

2010 BCS Championship Game; University of Alabama versus U-Texas

What surprised me the most was the high percentage of people thinking of returning to India. In the “good old days” – I would say from the ’60s through to the early 2000s, many Indians who were based in the land of opportunity talked about returning, but they never did anything about it.  To me, it appeared to be more of an elusive and idealistic dream than a goal. Yes, of course, I know folks who returned (family being the primary reason why), but they were few and far between.

Now, curiously, it is trending in quite a different direction, at least amongst the college-going crowd.

P.S. My non-scientific prediction is that if a similar survey were given today to Indians who have been living/working in the US for say, more than 10 years,  the majority would answer that they do not intend to return, except to visit.

Your thoughts?


Photo of CMU:By Persage (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Football Photo By Bband11th (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

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