During the two decades of 1996-2015 reports showed that more than half of the first rankers in Class 10 and Class 12 examinations had students leaving the country and were studying or employed overseas, mostly in the US.
Sanjaya Baru (former Media Advisor to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh) says “the toppers are the tip of an iceberg of student migration. More recent data, post-2015, suggest that the trend of out-migration of Indian talent and wealth has accelerated.”
From a couple of high-profile private schools in New Delhi data collected by Baru shows that while around the turn of the century about 20 per cent of their high school students went abroad for graduate studies, the number shot up to close to 50 per cent by 2010 and to 70 per cent in 2019. If the CBSE and ISC toppers are India’s brightest, many of the school-leavers from private schools like these belong to India’s wealthiest.
“Even as the year ends with renewed calls from Prime Minister Narendra Modi for an Atmanirbhar Bharat, India’s best and brightest are busy making plans for emigration.”
Both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Prime Minister Modi have invested hope by suggesting that out-migration does not necessarily constitute a “brain drain”, but could help create a “brain bank” on which India can draw for its own development.
However, the statistics indicate that an increasing number of non-resident Indians (NRIs) have been “not-returning” Indians, and are contributing more to their host countries than to their home country.
“An equally worrying trend is the increasing number of India’s super-rich who have chosen to live abroad and work from abroad,” he says.
Indian laws permit an annual outward remittance of up to US$2,50,000. The law also permits business persons to function from overseas as non-resident entities.
“The next generation of top Indian business families is increasingly opting for this dual status of owning and managing business in India while living overseas,” he concludes.