December 08, 2005

Goodness Gracious Me!

Lexington sent me a link on India suggesting I blog it, which I will when I have a moment. But meanwhile, a little anecdote.
I am still fruitlessly trying to move to India, but they do not allow foreigners to buy property, which is a bit of a raw deal, given the tens of millions of Indians worldwide who own property in other people's countries. I called the Indian High Commission in London - I thought, well, this posting is the creme de la creme of postings in the Commonwealth, so they will have their brightest people there.
I asked if I could immigrate to India and he expressed absolute shock. "You mean to settle?"
"Well, yes."
"Foreigners can't settle in India! No, no, no! You can't just settle in another country!"
Me: "Of course, you can. With permission."
"No, you can't."
Reasonably enough, I responded, "Well, what about the 500,000 Indians who are settled in Britain, then?"
To which he responded, "They're illegal."
I was so stunned I was silenced for a minute. "What? They're not illegal!"
"Yes they are." The conversation was beginning to sound like the dead parrot sketch.
Me: "No, they're not! Are you telling me all the Indian surgeons and barristers and millionaire businessmen are in Britain illegally?"
"Yah."
I couldn't believe I was talking to an officer in the Indian diplomatic service - especially one posted to London. "What about all the tens of millions of Indians settled in the United States and Canada, then?"
"Illegal."
"No, they're not!"
"Yes, they are."
I tried to think of something to say, but nothing came to mind, so I hung up.
I don't know why I want to live there. It is absolute torture.

Posted by Verity at December 8, 2005 09:28 AM
Comments

Ummmmm...then why do you want to live there? Or (assuming that you mean it) why are you attempting to live there?

Posted by: Rand Simberg at December 8, 2005 09:32 AM

Verity, explaining why you want to live there will have to be a future post, one which I'd like to read.

I will take a wild guess and speculate that it has something to do with being where the action is, where the prospects of huge positive changes happening are in the air, where the future is still open to great new things. That is what makes me itch to visit the place, all the warnings about corruption, dysentery and street crime notwithstanding.

Posted by: Lex at December 8, 2005 09:40 AM

As India gets more tied into the world economy, they will discover that having a permanent foreign community is an asset, and that countries that discourage it will be at a disadvantage. I think this is one of those post-colonial symbolic moves that seemed costless at the time. The younger, hipper Indians in the rising generation will eventually take over and fix this. That doesn't help you now, though.

Meanwhile, what're Sri Lanka's laws on the matter? Arthur Clarke seems to be settled there pretty happily. Here's an opportunity for the Sri Lankans to do some regulatory arbitrage and get one up on India.

Posted by: Jim Bennett at December 8, 2005 10:00 AM

The English High Comm in Delhi advised me to contact the Indian High Comm in London, although they did say - with the reservation that they weren't giving definitive advice - that it isn't possible for foreigners to immigrate to India. They kindly attached a short list of lawyers practising in Delhi, and I chose one who showed that Immigration Law was one of his specialties.

So I wrote to him.

He never wrote back.

Posted by: Verity at December 8, 2005 10:10 AM

A long article in the NY Times about India's Golden Quadrilateral highway mentions that there are border crossings between Indian states, with hours-long delays and corrupt police officials with the power to shake down truck (er, lorry) drivers for cash. Is that true? Does India need an internal free trade agreement before it can open up to the world?

Posted by: Peter Saint-Andre at December 8, 2005 01:37 PM

About two decades ago, I was interested in moving to Australia. I was told by the Australian consulate that as an Architect, I would be barred from ever practicing in Australia since the Australian Architects operate a closed-shop...regardless of your credentials, even if I changed nationalities. The same is true in Quebec and most of Canada. The irony is that many of them were trained here, and went back home and closed the doors behind them.

So much for Anglospheric transparency; it only works one-way when it comes to the professions and intellectual-content.

Posted by: Ted B. at December 8, 2005 01:45 PM

So much for Anglospheric transparency; it only works one-way when it comes to the professions and intellectual-content.

Protectionism in professional job certification is a variantt of the public-goods problam. A small set of people (existing professionals, for example) can put a lot of focused effort and resources into lobbying for restricted entry to their profession. The people who stand to lose (prospective entrants to the profession, or the general public who might benefit from a broader choice of providers) have little time, attention, or resources to throw into fighting restriction of entry. The class of prospective foreign entrants is particularly powerless to affect the restriction, and they after all have other possibilities to pursue. So special interest tends to triumph over the general interest when it is rationed by the state.

One of the points of an Anglospherist movement is to create a general lobby for free movement of peoples and mutual recognition of qualifications within the core Anglosphere nations. In other words, to create an alliance of prospective beneficiaries to offset the local protectionist lobby. This is a case where the general and long-term interest of all the Anglosphere nations needs to take precedence over the specific interest of special groups.

Posted by: Jim Bennett at December 8, 2005 04:02 PM

Yikes! I had assumed that the "You can't immigrate to India" claim was just the sign of an ignorant bureaucrat; it's shocking that it'd be true. On the other hand, he's simply wrong that the Indians who immigrated here to the States are necessarily here illegally.

As far as immigration for professionals goes, my fiancee is a Ph.D. astrophysicist from Romania. Despite the usual paperwork hassles, it certainly is possible here. Plenty of my other fellow astronomers are foreigners (especially Italians, for whatever reason) who have immigrated. No doors shut in their faces, thankfully.

Posted by: Tim at December 8, 2005 05:54 PM

Call that guy back and ask him about Sonia Gandhi. Is she illegal?

Posted by: Z at December 9, 2005 06:47 AM

Z, that was my first thought.

As for Verity's reason(s) for going, I can think of about a half billion worth, some of the better of which may be seen here:

http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&q=miss%20world%20india&sa=N&tab=wi

Posted by: ElamBend at December 9, 2005 08:22 AM

Those may be good reasons for you to go, but I doubt if they're hers...

Posted by: Rand Simberg at December 9, 2005 09:18 AM

Hee hee! Pardon my schadenfreude, but as much as I enjoy the stimulating discourse on this blog, as an Indian I can't help but be amused when someone comes face to face with the realities of Indian inefficiency.

Lex: while the prospects you speak of certainly exist, it's difficult for an outsider to grasp how deeply the feudal mindset is entrenched in the Indian masses. To quote what Peter Saint-Andre posted only some hours ago, "most places get the government they deserve". Individualism, open inquiry, science, and technological innovation were not invented here, and while we endeavour to mimic Anglospheric institutions, they often just end up appearing comically (or tragically) out of place.

Also, to answer Mr Saint-Andre's question, the NYT article was quite accurate. This is the status quo.

Posted by: Akshat at December 9, 2005 10:31 AM

Well, I stand chagrined for my presumption. Though, as imperfect a judge of the male form as I may be, the Indian male seems to be just as asthetically pleasing.

Sorry, Verity.

Posted by: ElamBend at December 9, 2005 03:55 PM

Elambend - I didn't go to your link, but there is no question that your statement that many male Indians are aesthetically very pleasing as well is correct. Indian men and women are fine looking people, especially those from the north, and they walk down the street as though they were the world's top models. I've never seen such unselfconsciously elegant walks - and this includes sweepers.

Tim writes: "On the other hand, he's simply wrong that the Indians who immigrated here to the States are necessarily here illegally." Thank you, Tim, for stating the glaringly obvious. (I don't even like that "necessarily"). The High Comm spokesman is also wrong that the 500,000 Indians living in Britain are there illegally. His statement was bonkers. That was the point of my post. That is why I mentioned the dead parrot sketch. The parrot really was dead.

Akshat - I came "face to face" with the realities of India when I lived there (for the length of my visa in a rented flat). It is nevertheless an extraordinary country with a very long history of talent and industry.

Z, Sonia Gandhi is Indian by marriage, as you know. This, they allow. This the are crazy enough to think is a qualification for becoming prime minister. Cooler heads prevailed, of course, particularly Sonia's. It says something when you have to admit that an Italian had a cooler head than the Indian electorate.

Posted by: Verity at December 9, 2005 05:58 PM

I dont know of a straight way but there are too many ways to do it in a round about way. You can get adopted by some one and then become a citizen (assuming that it is what you want). Without being a citizen I dont think you can buy property. Well I think you should find an immigration lawyer in UK as you did and he should hook you up.

Posted by: Ranjit at December 9, 2005 07:53 PM

No, Ranjit - the immigration lawyer recommended was in India. His speciality is Immigration. Now I suspect it is immigration [emigration, for the pedants] out of India into other countries. I think there is no pressing demand from people wanting to immigrate to India, which is why there are no lawyers preparing briefs like mad.

Posted by: Verity at December 9, 2005 08:29 PM

Akshat: thank you for the dose of realism and your confirmation of the trade barriers within India. Alas, I think India has a long way to go (as well all do in many respects).

Posted by: Peter Saint-Andre at December 9, 2005 09:34 PM

Peter St Andre - Not as China.

Posted by: Verity at December 9, 2005 09:46 PM

Lex - re your post, all those things. But I've never had Delhi belly. Been to India several times; lived there once. Never had Delhi belly.

Posted by: Verity at December 9, 2005 10:06 PM

Akshat: Thanks for reminding us how far India has to go. We'd be idiots to ignore it. But every time I look at India's court system compared to China's, India's elections compared to China's "elections", or India's media compared to China's, and then look at all the sucking-up to "China as the wave of the future" that's going on, I have to believe that this stuff will count for something. On this blog we are all hoping the good in India will overcome the bad. As we hope for China as well, but there's less to work with there.

Posted by: Jim Bennett at December 9, 2005 10:24 PM

Jim Bennett: Also, consider the diversity factor in India which is absolutely rich, overwhelming and unwieldy.
Its like E.U. functioning as a nation-state. :))

Verity: Wish you the very best with settling in India.

Posted by: Santhosh at December 9, 2005 11:43 PM

Just find a western Sai Baba devotee. These devotees from all over the world, own lots of property (mainly flats) around Sai Baba's ashram in Andhra Pradesh. Ask them how they do it.

Posted by: Dave at December 9, 2005 11:58 PM

Verity said "I've never seen such unselfconsciously elegant walks - and this includes sweepers. "

Hehe. That line was funny. Yep them North Indians are a haughty lot.

I have a friend of mine who is visiting India.She was so impressed that she thought about staying back here . Unfortunately things did'nt work out for her as well. She is going back to the US, on 14th .

:(


Regarding Mrs. G, you could go her way and get married to an Indian guy !

hehe..j/k


R.

Posted by: Rohan at December 10, 2005 04:33 AM

There is a procedure for acquiring Indian citizenship by naturalization. As an Indian citizen, I have never bothered finding out the relevant law...The wikipedia entry on Indian nationality law says that citizenship can be acquired by a foreigner who has lived in India for 12 years with continuous stay in the last 12 months. I suppose the challenge for anyone wanting Indian citizenship - I don't think there's a big demand for this - is to find a way of living in India for 12 years. As elsewhere, I guess the two common methods are to either come as a student (some Indian universities do have foreign students) and then find a way of staying on or to find a job in India (perhaps get a multinational company to transfer you to their India operation). My feeling is that most naturalized citizens of India (who are not of Indian origin) acquire their Indian citizenship by marriage, or perhaps through the church. (The latter is controversial - as I'm sure Aussie readers are aware of the Staines murders.)

Posted by: suresh at December 10, 2005 04:38 AM

Jim - and, equally important, India has a free press. And they are as rowdy and disrespectful as the British press. In fact, such is the directness that, were it not for some uniquely Indian turns of phrase, you would think that a leader robustly castigating a government minister appeared in a British or Australian paper.

It is this lack of respectful silence in the press that delineates a truly free country.

Posted by: Verity at December 10, 2005 06:47 AM

Other than an exercise in testing India's immigration laws, which is a commendable exercise, I must say - I wonder why anybody would want to settle in an overpopulated, third-world country, with little infrastructure, corrupt police and judiciary system, an equally corrupt and inefficient bureaucracy (whose taste you have already got with your interactions with the diplomat) and a population that keeps on increasing with no end in sight.

Posted by: anon at December 10, 2005 01:13 PM

I don't know what you mean by "little infrastructure". I for one would not hesitate for a split second to go to India for a medical procedure. People say that being in their private hospitals is like being in the best the US has to offer, the medical care is second to none and it's about 1/4 the price of the exact same treatment in the West. (For coronary procedures, they have around a 1/5th of 1% better success rate than the US. Britain is now sending some patients to India for procedures on the NHS. Blue Cross/Blue Shield offer full coverage for - I think - two hospital chains in India.

They've got a huge movie industry, an advanced and innovative high tech industry in Bangalore, they manufacture lots of things (besides Tata buses). They have a middle class of 500m. That is bigger than the entire population of the US. These are people with two or three car garages, DVDs, digital cameras, etc who go overseas for their vacations. I don't know what the unemployment rate in India is, but these people are making money, and spending it and they raise everyone's boat.

An Indian will write in to correct me, but I do not see the police as corrupt. Most of them are Sikhs. Courts of law run along British lines.

All that said, India looks chaotic on the surface. Not many places where, when you answer your doorbell, you are greeted by a man with a dining room chair on his head asking if you need to buy any chairs today.

When you return from India, everywhere else looks so ... bland.

Posted by: Verity at December 10, 2005 02:03 PM

Just a factual correction: most Indian policemen are not Sikhs. In north India many Sikh families do contribute to the army and some to the police force. But in most parts of the country where the Sikh population is much lower, there are almost no Sikh policemen :) I've lived 18 years in the country and I don't think I ever saw a Sikh policeman in Calcutta. Also, I'm not sure what being Sikh has to do with being corrupt?!

Posted by: Antara at December 10, 2005 03:30 PM

Well, Antara, you have me there. I remember seeing a lot of Sikhs in uniform and perhaps assumed they were police. If I remember correctly, the police are also dressed in khaki. And, of course, I was wrong to generalise about a country as large and diverse as India.

There must be some Sikh rogues, but I always think of them as incorruptible. Maybe it's good PR on their part and they have such good bearing! I'm sure they have their share of lowlifes, like everyone else.

Posted by: Verity at December 10, 2005 04:11 PM

-----quote-----
Individualism, open inquiry, science, and technological innovation were not invented here.
-----end quote-----

All countries in the world have people who display exceptional individualism, who have open and inquiring, who are scientific, and do technological innovation. The percentage differs because the circumstances differ. A person who displays open enquiry will be put on the block in many places. A person is scientific if they quietly go about doing incremental innovation in their daily lives. They may publish their practical results by disseminating to others directly, and not in scientific journals. Science and innovation is not limited to what is published in journals.

You are going to the other extreme of the scale! We wouldn't be here as the most dominating species, if not for some of our more enterprising ancestors.

Posted by: Amit Kulkarni at December 11, 2005 02:21 PM

Verity - I'm in full agreement with Jim Bennett's comments above, and with your assertion that India's press is free, but I'm afraid your estimation of India may be inflated.

It gives me no pleasure to have to defend the comment by anon, but India's infrastructure is nothing to be proud of. Transportation is below par as the NYT article mentioned above clearly conveys, and the electricity and water supplies are notoriously unreliable (I live in New Delhi, and on many days I get a total of three hours of running water). The army is generally perceived as incorruptible, which is probably well-founded, but the same can't be said of the police. There are plenty of people with two or three garages who go overseas for vacations, but I seriously doubt that they can be classified as 'middle-class'. With regard to medical care, the key word is 'private' - i.e. inaccessible to a large majority of the population.

Also, you mentioned 'a huge movie industry', which I must protest. Sure, Bollywood is huge in dollar terms, and it permeates every aspect of Indian culture.. but how many Indian movies have you watched? There is an artistic subtext to cinema which is almost entirely absent here. As a rule, Bollywood flicks are crass and formulaic, and are often just dumbed down rehashes of Hollywood successes. Show me anything as profound as Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, as mesmerising as Mamoru Oshii's Ghost in the Shell, as darkly imaginative as Jeunet and Caro's City of Lost Children or as resplendent as Zhang Yimou's Hero that has come out of India. (These may not be representative of mainstream cinema anywhere, but at least the opportunity existed for them to be made, and alternative means of production and distribution were available.) I liken Bollywood to cheap candy; good to have occasionally if it suits your taste, but make it your exclusive diet and it'll rot your very core.

Excuse me for getting sidetracked. Despite my negativity, I remain convinced that India is currently undergoing deep and far-reaching changes that are proceeding at a very rapid pace, considering India's vastness (in both size and history). Even with all my reservations, I am still optimistic.

Posted by: Akshat at December 12, 2005 04:19 AM

Akshat - That was interesting. When I lived in Delhi, the water and electricity were dependable, so things must have degenerated since then.

Re health care, free medical care for poor people is always abysmal, everywhere, because it is so costly. The British National Health Service is nothing to write home about. People go in with something comparatively easy to cure and catch a deadly infection in the filthy conditions, and die. There aren't enough beds and very sick people lie on trolleys in busy corridors with the public walking by coughing and breathing germs all over them. Going private is a different world. It's the same everywhere. Probably a bit worse in India because of the sheer numbers, but hardly unique.

Actually, Bollywood DVDs are moderately popular in Britain and Brits check them out.

I too believe that India is going through deep, earth-shaking changes. What harmed this brilliant country, as I have said many times, began with Gandhi, who I consider toxic. Nehru was his acolyte and took India into this ridiculous "non-aligned" movement (meaning best friends with the USSR and accepting aid and "advisors" from them). Indira was an authoritarian and the non-aligned movement absolutely burgeoned under her repressive regime.

Rajiv was better,although corrupt. I never understood the Indian dependence on these awful Gandhis. The notion that Sonia should be prime minister was so mind-boggling that I just couldn't get my head round it. Then they wanted his daughter to stand. Dear god! One point one billion people and they can't find anyone but a Gandhi - every one of them with a terrible record!

I don't think India's military gets enough credit.

Posted by: Verity at December 12, 2005 08:40 AM

Gurcharan Das made an interesting comment in his book "India Unbound" -- it was to the effect that Gandhi (M.K., that is) trusted business but not technolgy, Nehru trusted technology but not business. Throw in the worst of mid-twentieth century British bureaucratic practice, and you see some of the handicaps India started with at independence. It's a wonder they have come as far as they have already, but you can also imagine what would happen if (when) they throw off the remnants of these unfortunate legacies.

Posted by: Jim Bennett at December 13, 2005 03:37 PM

Jim - Did he really say that Ghandi trusted business but not technology? It wouldn't surprise me if that were the case, but it would be very stupid. How did he think business was going to operate employing clunking old technologies that were costly to use? Or maybe this was the idea behind his ridiculous "import substitution". "Let's use old, outdated, expensive technology that produces products that have long been eclipsed in the West, and forbid our people to import neat new stuff made overseas! Sounds like a winner to me!"

I had a friend who worked in an important ministry and was head of a big division, and once when I went over, I took a push button (as opposed to rotary dial) phone for his home and he practically burst into tears with gratitude. I took another friend a simple little digital display clock set in transparent perspex and he too was overwhelmingly grateful. These things, that we were buying cheap and throwing away when something new came along, just weren't available to the Indian consumer. That such intelligent people were being held back, stuck in the 1940s, was infuriating.

Gandhi and the Nehrus were a curse for India. Rajiv was the best of the lot. At least he backed the development of the Maruti - the first time almost all Indians had ever seen a car that wasn't an Ambassador and that would go over 35 miles an hour. When Indira Gandhi was shot, they whisked her off to hospital in a car that went 35 mph top speed.

Posted by: Verity at December 13, 2005 04:21 PM

My God. This is ridiculous... I have seen hundreds of "goras" as well as other foreigners in Bombay and Delhi and many of them looked like they were quite well settled there. Don't know how they did it. Will try to find something for you. If all else fails you can marry me and we can go settle in India ;)

me - Indian in US

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