Illegal immigration from India to the United States is soaring. A record 96,917 Indians were detained while attempting to enter the US illegally from October 2022 to September 2023, representing a 50% jump from the corresponding period in the prior year. Vast majority of the arrested Indians came from Prime Minister Modi's state of Gujarat while others came from the state of Punjab. There are about 725,000 undocumented Indian immigrants in the US – the third-largest population of illegal immigrants after Mexicans and El Salvadorans – according to a Pew Research Centre report.
|Illegal Immigration to the US From India. Source: Strait Times
The number of Indians attempting to cross into the United States illegally has accelerated in recent years on Prime Minister Modi's watch. These immigrants take the Latin American route to reach the US-Mexico border before making a run for the US. They cross the Darien Gap, a dangerous thick forest region between Colombia and Panama, taking three days to a week while taking huge risks ranging from lack of food and drinking water, wild animals and violent gangs.
There are multiple drivers of mass illegal migration of Indians to other countries. These include increasing violence under Mr. Modi's Hindutva rule and lack of jobs for thee growing working-age population. Human traffickers are exploiting these conditions to profit from vulnerable groups most impacted by political and economic problems in the country.
Christians, low caste Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs are among the main targets of the far-right Hindu mob attacks across India. In 2023, the Modi government’s discriminatory and divisive policies led to growing violence against minorities, creating a pervasive environment of fear and a chilling effect on government critics, Human Rights Watch said in its World Report 2024.
India's labor force participation rate (LPR) has been declining for several years. Centre For Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) data shows that the labor participation rate fell to 39.5% in 2022-23, from an already low 40.1% in 2021-22. This indicates that more than half of India’s working age population is not employed. This is especially the case for women 90% of whom are out of the labor force. India’s LPR is among the lowest in the world. The global average LPR is 60%.
|Labor Participation Rate in India. Source: CMIE Via Reuters
The rapid GDP growth claimed by India is not creating enough jobs for its massive young population. The much-hyped "Make in India" initiative of the Modi government is just not working well enough to keep pace with the demand for jobs. Manufacturing’s contribution to India’s GDP has declined from 17% two decades ago to just 13% in 2022, according to the World Bank. India has added only 5 million factory jobs since Mr. Modi was first elected, for a total of 65 million such jobs now, according to the Wall Street Journal. Unable to find jobs in cities, a very large number of Indians are going back to subsistence farming to eke out a meager living.
Indian economist Ritesh Kumar recently wrote a piece for Nikkei Asia titled "Few are benefiting from India's rapid GDP growth". His conclusion: What India really needs is a growth trajectory that is inclusive, sustainable and can foster shared prosperity across all segments of the economy rather than benefiting only a privileged few.
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