CHANDIGARH - Regardless of the racial attacks on Indian students in Australia, Down Under continues to be a hot spot for Punjabi students.
Naresh Gulati, CEO of Oceanic Consultants here, told IANS: “There has been no decline in the number of applications we were receiving for Australian student visa. Yes, we had received some calls from anxious parents, but now everything has settled down.”
“We have assured parents about the safety of their wards as our officials are in constant contact with Indian students in Australia through our Melbourne office there,” Gulati added.
Oceanic Consultants is a leading consultant firm in the region with 23 offices in India and Australia. In 2008, they sent around 3,000 Indian students to Australia on study visa.
Slamming the attacks, Gulati said: “The recent attacks on Indian students are very unfortunate and we strongly condemn them. However, at the same time it is not right to associate them with any kind of racism.”
“Australia is the most conducive, friendly and non-racist place that really encourages students to settle there. My whole family is living there and we have not faced any kind of racial attack or discrimination so far,” Gulati added.
Presently around 93,000 Indian students are studying in Australia and over 40 percent of them have gone from Punjab.
Atul Malhotra, managing director of Bright Overseas Consultancy that has its offices in various towns of Punjab, told IANS: “Such incidents cannot deter our Punjabi students from going there. Every day we are getting inquiries from students and their parents.”
“Even the Australian government is earning huge revenue from international students so they should guarantee their safety. In most of the cases, students are going there to earn PR (permanent residence) status as formalities there are less cumbersome if we compare it with other developed countries,” he added.
The courses that are most sought after among Indian students in Australia are hotel management, hospitality, accounting and hair-dressing.
Besides Australia, Indian students are also going to its neighbouring country of New Zealand for studies.
Rekha Thakur, centre head of Healthyway Immigration here, told IANS: “New Zealand offers one of the safest and stimulating learning environment for international students. It has emerged as a very hot destination among students from this region.”
“Around 50,000 Indian students, a majority from Punjab, are currently studying in New Zealand but this figure keeps on varying,” Thakur said.
He added: “The media had created a hype out of the attack on Indian students in Australia. New Zealand enjoys close proximity with Australia but these incidents have not affected the flow of students to any of these countries.”
Shelly Walia, dean (international students), Panjab University, told IANS: “I think we should not create a scare among the masses just on the basis of a few incidents. Violent incidents can happen in any part of the world and there is a very minute possibility that recent attacks in Australia were racially motivated.”
Walia added: “Goons are there in every country, even in the US and in the UK. And the fact that Indian students work there till late hours and stay in suburbs instead of hostels to save money makes them more prone to such attacks.”
Gurvinder Singh, a resident of Zirakpur town in Punjab, said: “I believe that this is a temporary phase and things would become normal in the next two-three months.”
“I am capable of taking care of myself and moreover it is my childhood dream to go to Australia. I have taken admission in Carrick Institute in Sydney campus in commercial cookery and am moving there in September,” Singh said.
(Alkesh Sharma can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)