Posts Tagged ‘US’

Behind the ‘hindu growth rate’ of Gujarat, ‘wombs for rent’

January 5, 2008

ANAND: Every night in this quiet western Indian city, 15 pregnant women prepare for sleep in the spacious house they share, ascending the stairs in a procession of ballooned bellies, to bedrooms that become a landscape of soft hills.

A team of maids, cooks and doctors looks after the women, whose pregnancies would be unusual anywhere else but are common here. The young mothers of Anand, a place famous for its milk, are pregnant with the children of infertile couples from around the world.

The small clinic at Kaival Hospital matches infertile couples with local women, cares for the women during pregnancy and delivery, and counsels them afterward. Anand’s surrogate mothers, pioneers in the growing field of outsourced pregnancies, have given birth to roughly 40 babies.

More than 50 women in this city are now pregnant with the children of couples from the United States, Taiwan, Britain and beyond. The women earn more than many would make in 15 years. But the program raises a host of uncomfortable questions that touch on morals and modern science, exploitation and globalization, and that most natural of desires: to have a family.

Dr. Nayna Patel, the woman behind Anand’s baby boom, defends her work as meaningful for everyone involved.

“There is this one woman who desperately needs a baby and cannot have her own child without the help of a surrogate. And at the other end there is this woman who badly wants to help her (own) family,” Patel said. “If this female wants to help the other one … why not allow that? … It’s not for any bad cause. They’re helping one another to have a new life in this world.”

Experts say commercial surrogacy _ or what has been called “wombs for rent” _ is growing in India. While no reliable numbers track such pregnancies nationwide, doctors work with surrogates in virtually every major city. The women are impregnated in-vitro with the egg and sperm of couples unable to conceive on their own.

Commercial surrogacy has been legal in India since 2002, as it is in many other countries, including the United States. But India is the leader in making it a viable industry rather than a rare fertility treatment. Experts say it could take off for the same reasons outsourcing in other industries has been successful: a wide labor pool working for relatively low rates.

Critics say the couples are exploiting poor women in India _ a country with an alarmingly high maternal death rate _ by hiring them at a cut-rate cost to undergo the hardship, pain and risks of labor.

“It raises the factor of baby farms in developing countries,” said Dr. John Lantos of the Center for Practical Bioethics in Kansas City, Missouri. “It comes down to questions of voluntariness and risk.”

Patel’s surrogates are aware of the risks because they’ve watched others go through them. Many of the mothers know one another, or are even related. Three sisters have all borne strangers’ children, and their sister-in-law is pregnant with a second surrogate baby. Nearly half the babies have been born to foreign couples while the rest have gone to Indians.

Ritu Sodhi, a furniture importer from Los Angeles who was born in India, spent US$200,000 (euro138,910) trying to get pregnant through in-vitro fertilization, and was considering spending another US$80,000 (euro55,563) to hire a surrogate mother in the United States.

“We were so desperate,” she said. “It was emotionally and financially exhausting.”

Then, on the Internet, Sodhi found Patel’s clinic. After spending about US$20,000 (euro13,890) _ more than many couples because it took the surrogate mother several cycles to conceive _ Sodhi and her husband are now back home with their 4-month-old baby, Neel. They plan to return to Anand for a second child.

“Even if it cost $1 million (euro690,000), the joy that they had delivered to me is so much more than any money that I have given them,” said Sodhi. “They’re godsends to deliver something so special.”

Patel’s center is believed to be unique in offering one-stop service. Other clinics may request that the couple bring in their own surrogate, often a family member or friend, and some place classified ads. But in Anand the couple just provides the egg and sperm and the clinic does the rest, drawing from a waiting list of tested and ready surrogates.

Young women are flocking to the clinic to sign up for the list. Suman Dodia, a pregnant, baby-faced 26-year-old, said she will buy a house with the US$4,500 (euro3,125) she receives from the British couple whose child she’s carrying. It would have taken her 15 years to earn that on her maid’s monthly salary of US$25 (euro17).

Dodia’s own three children were delivered at home and she said she never visited a doctor during those pregnancies.

“It’s very different with medicine,” Dodia said, resting her hands on her hugely pregnant belly. “I’m being more careful now than I was with my own pregnancy.”

Patel said she carefully chooses which couples to help and which women to hire as surrogates. She only accepts couples with serious fertility issues, like survivors of uterine cancer. The surrogate mothers have to be between 18 and 45, have at least one child of their own, and be in good medical shape.

Like some fertility reality show, a rotating cast of surrogate mothers live together in a home rented by the clinic and overseen by a former surrogate mother. They receive their children and husbands as visitors during the day, when they’re not busy with English or computer classes.

“They feel like my family,” said Rubina Mandul, 32, the surrogate house’s den mother. “The first 10 days are hard, but then they don’t want to go home.”

Mandul, who has two sons of her own, gave birth to a child for an American couple in February. She said she misses the baby, but she stays in touch with the parents over the Internet. A photo of the American couple with the child hangs over the sofa.

“They need a baby more than me,” she said. The surrogate mothers and the parents sign a contract that promises the couple will cover all medical expenses in addition to the woman’s payment, and the surrogate mother will hand over the baby after birth. The couples fly to Anand for the in-vitro fertilization and again for the birth. Most couples end up paying the clinic less than US$10,000 (euro6,945) for the entire procedure, including fertilization, the fee to the mother and medical expenses.

Counseling is a major part of the process and Patel tells the women to think of the pregnancy as “someone’s child comes to stay at your place for nine months.”

Kailas Gheewala, 25, said she doesn’t think of the pregnancy as her own.

“The fetus is theirs, so I’m not sad to give it back,” said Gheewala, who plans to save the US$6,250 (euro4,340) she’s earning for her two daughters’ education. “The child will go to the U.S. and lead a better life and I’ll be happy.”

Patel said none of the surrogate mothers has had especially difficult births or serious medical problems, but risks are inescapable.

“We have to be very careful,” she said. “We overdo all the health investigations. We do not take any chances.”

Health experts expect to see more Indian commercial surrogacy programs in coming years. Dr. Indira Hinduja, a prominent fertility specialist who was behind India’s first test-tube baby two decades ago, receives several surrogacy inquiries a month from couples overseas.

“People are accepting it,” said Hinduja. “Earlier they used to be ashamed but now they are becoming more broadminded.”

But if commercial surrogacy keeps growing, some fear it could change from a medical necessity for infertile women to a convenience for the rich.

“You can picture the wealthy couples of the West deciding that pregnancy is just not worth the trouble anymore and the whole industry will be farmed out,” said Lantos.

Or, Lantos said, competition among clinics could lead to compromised safety measures and “the clinic across the street offers it for 20 percent less and one in Bangladesh undercuts that and pretty soon conditions get bad.”

The industry is not regulated by the government. Health officials have issued nonbinding ethical guidelines and called for legislation to protect the surrogates and the children.

For now, the surrogate mothers in Anand seem as pleased with the arrangement as the new parents.

“I know this isn’t mine,” said Jagrudi Sharma, 34, pointing to her belly. “But I’m giving happiness to another couple. And it’s great for me.”

Economic Times

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India approves 2.5 billion deal with Israeli Defence

July 18, 2007

New Delhi – India has started a 2.5-billion-dollar (Rs10,000 crore)  joint venture with Israel to develop an advanced range surface-to-air missile capable of detecting and destroying hostile aircraft, missiles and spy planes, news reports said Friday. India now buys half of its arms from Israel, making it Israel’s biggest customer. It is thus funding the Israeli occupation in Palestine, because the Israeli economy rests on its defense industry, its main export, as well as the inflow of US tax dollars.

With more than a billion people, India is a country of striking contrasts. India accounts for 40 per cent of the world’s poor and its fiscal deficit is one of the highest in the world. Almost half of Indian women are still illiterate; about 40 million primary school-age children are not in school. 21 percent increase and India. Just one lakh people in India account for at least one tenth of the country’s GDP. In 2006, India had 1,00,015 people with a personal net worth in excess of at least $1 million (Rs 4.1 crore) each, according to the World Wealth Report. Last year, the number of Indians getting richer grew at 20.5%.

According to the Israel National Insurance Institute findings, one of every four Israelis lives below the poverty line — that’s 1.6 million people. Thirty-five percent of children are living in poverty, leaving Israel with this unhappy distinction. The number of Israeli millionaires per capita is twice the world average, according to the 2005 World Wealth Report.  The rate of increase in the number of millionaires in Israel is 50 higher than global rates, says Merrill Lynch report (2006).

During BJP rule, the pro- zionist Hindutva intelligentia took the controle of political corridors of power in the Prime Minister’s office, the Defence Ministry and the Home ministry, in New Delhi. It is being alleged that the presence of this arms trading network were traced in many armed conflicts across India. This influential network also established various research institutions across India to hype security risks and thus to promote weapon trade. The money coming from the bribes and the kick backs have been channelised to the welfare of Sangh Parivar empire.  The military agreements, collaboration on nuclear and missile defense, and sharing of intelligence with Israel has continued even with the communist supported new United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.

India’s Cabinet Committee on Security chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday approved the project between the Defence Research and Development Organization and Israel Aerospace Industries for developing the missile system which would have a range of about 70 kilometres, the Times of India daily reported. The CCS’s meeting was attended by defence minister AK Antony, external affairs minister, Pranab Mukherjee, finance minister, P Chidambaram and home minister, Shivraj Patil. The venture would work towards developing an air defence system for the Indian Air Force to replace its ageing Soviet-era Pechoura missile system. India, which has traditional ties with the Non Aligned Movement (NAM) and has supported the Palestinian cause for decades, established diplomatic relations with Israel in 1992. Defense ties between the two countries have also boomed due to the ideological bondage between India’s Hindutva Fascism and  Israel’s Zionism.

Business Week reported in 2005 that India became Israel’s largest importer of weapons the previous year, accounting for about half of the $3.6 billion worth of weapons exported by that country. Not coincidentally, that year also proved to be the second best recorded year for the Israeli weapons industry, making Israel the 5th largest weapons exporter in the world and accounting for about 10 percent of the world’s weapons trade.

Poverty rates in Israel reached a new peak in 2005, although they leveled off in 2006, according to statistics by the National Insurance Institute. It ranks among Western countries with the greatest percentage of poor children, according to the insurance institute.

Some 7,400 Israelis are worth at least $1 million, the World Wealth Report said, including 84 who have at least $30 million. The total liquid assets of Israel’s upper echelon grew by 25 percent, to $30 billion, between 2004 and 2005, according to the report. Those designated by the report as the nine richest Israelis made their fortunes in everything from diamonds to real estate to communications to entertainment.

But, India and Israel have found a shared enemy to target in their respective “anti-terrorism” operations, conflating Kashmir and Pakistan with Palestine, and also common agreement on a framework that has gained global currency with Bush’s “war on terrorism,” resulting in the new “India-Israel-US axis.” US based Indian scholar, Vijay Prashad says Mossad and India’s Research Analysis Wing (RAW) shared information and analysis from the late 1970s onwards.

The door to Washington, many have realized, is through Tel Aviv. And in the U.S., according to some, the door to Capitol Hill is through AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobbying group that shuts down all criticism of Israel as “anti-Semitic.” Hindu right-wing groups, such as the Indian American Political Action Committee (USINAPAC) and the Hindu American Foundation (linked to the VHP) have forged alliances with AIPAC and the American Jewish Committee. The missile deal has been hanging fire for at least a year, but its approval just before India’s national security adviser M.K. Narayanan’s trip to Washington is a signal to the powerful Jewish lobby in the US, whose support will be vital in seeing through the 123 Agreement in the US Congress. Reports says that US may get  another lucrative order from the Indian Air Force for 126 multi-role combat aircraft, the biggest military aviation deal in history.

The Israeli help comes after repeated delays in the indigenous Akash missile project that is still to undergo user trials, the Indian Express newspaper reported.

Meanwhile, sources told the IANS news agency that 18 command and launch systems would be built for the new missile system. The new missile is likely to be an advanced version of the Israeli Spyder quick-reaction missile which has an effective range of 55 kilometres.

India and Israel are already in a 14-billion-rupee project to develop an extended-range version of the Barak missile that is deployed on frontline Indian Navy warships. The next-generation Barak will have a 70-kilometre range against the 10-kilometre radius of the existing missile.

India and Israel have increased cooperation in varied fields particularly in military and intelligence ventures since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1992.

According government estimates, Israel has become India’s second biggest defence supplier after Russia, providing military equipment worth 1.6 billion dollars in 2006.

India has already acquired the Green Pine early-warning radar from Israel.

Other joint-venture projects are underway for spy planes, electronic warfare systems and AWACS (airborne warning and control systems), while Israel is helping India with the modernization of its Soviet-era fighter jets and tanks.

Recent Major Indian deals with Israel

Feb 2007

In Delhi, the Ashkenazi chief rabbi met top Hindu leaders including leaders of the RSS and BJP in what was termed as “Jewish-Hindu summit.” It led to a 9-point “Declaration of Mutual Understanding and Cooperation from the First Jewish-Hindu Leadership Summit”. The declaration was signed from the Hindu side by Swami Dayanand Saraswati, head of Dharma Acharya Sabha, who is close to the RSS. The tainted Kanchi Shankaracharya Swami Jayendra Saraswati too was involved with the Hindu side represented by some thirty prominent Hindu leaders. Israeli Ambassador David Danieli was also present during the dinner at Advani’s official residence while the (Jewish) Indian officer, Lt. Gen. (retd) JFR Jacob, was part of the Jewish delegation.  “Since Jews were a powerful community in the US, their association with Hindus would help to strengthen Indo-US relations.”  said, another key organizer, Mr. Bawa Jain.

Israel recently transferred five million shekels (5.5 Crores of Indian Rupees) to the Israel Anti-Drug Abuse Foundation (IADAF) operations in Goa. The  organization’s hostel in Goa which treats hundreds of Israelis who suffer from symptoms of drug abuse while traveling in the Indian sub-continent each year. Young Israelis after having to serve 3 years in the Army feel they need to explore the world and get away from all the problems of Israel. Every year, many Israeli young people enjoy their  freedom by visiting Indian beaches of Goa and Kerala and indulge in drug usage .

June 2007

Israeli deputy chief of general staff Major General Moshe Kaplinsky visited J&K from June 14 to discuss various issues with army officers in the state. He met Lt Gen Tej Sapru, general officer commanding of 16 corps and other senior officers in the state to discuss issues of mutual interest. Israel, ranks fifth globally in security-related exports and the role of its spy agency, MOSSAD is being  alleged in  many armed conflicts around the world.

Muslim Intellectual Forum (MIF), a Mumbai based platform of intellectuals, thinkers and human rights activists has linked the  release of Al-Qaida related CDs with the visit of Israeli military and intelligence delegation to India. In a statement Feroze H. Mithiborwala, Convenor of MIF, said, “The latest addition of the Al- Qaida Hind tapes appeared on the same day that an Israeli military and intelligence delegation was to visit India and advice the government on counter-terror measures in Jammu and Kashmir.” He added that it has been the observation MIF that the Al-Qaida tapes come at the most opportune times for US president George Bush and Israel.

“In our estimation, Al-Qaida is nothing but a front organization of the CIA and MOSSAD. The US-Zionist empire has stated that their war against terror will be fought endlessly and across borders and for that they have created a phantom organization, the Al-Qaida. Interestingly, the growth of US-Israeli Imperialism is directly proportional to the growth of terrorism and inversely proportional to the growing resistance,” Feroze said.

The 7/11 Mumbai terror attack occurred on the same day that Israel launched its war on Lebanon. The terror attack on the Sankatmoc-han Mandir on March 7, 2006, occurred a few days after the greatest Indian upsurge after the Quit India movement, against the visit of Bush. Even the terror attack on the Indian Parliament has never been investigated, he said.  The Convenor of MIF viewed that in India basically terror attacks have replaced communal riots as a strategy of the state to divide, confuse and terrorise the people. No terrorist attack requires a commission of enquiry, only pin the blame on some Muslim sounding organization.

In  Jun, 2007, The State Bank of India (SBI) has become the first foreign bank to open a branch in the Israel’s diamond exchange.  The Central Bank of India owns 59.7% of it.

In July 2007, India’s Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) found many ‘blood diamonds’ are being smuggled in to Surat, the country’s polishing center.The rough diamonds from “Antwerp, London and Israel  are brought on fishing boats through the shallow waters of Gujarat’s west coast, they said. Blood or Conflict diamonds originate primarily from war zones where they are illegally mined and later sold secretly. The perpetrators use the profits to buy arms, fund civil wars and military coups against legitimate governments there.

Surat’s gems and jewellery industry, which comprises of more than 6,000 small and big diamond cutting and polishing units, employs around seven lakh people. Being the largest processor and exporter of precious stones in the world, India, with a turnover of Rs 45,000 crore, has always been suspected of getting blood diamonds processed here, DRI officials say. And with nine out of every 11 diamonds in the world being cut in Surat, the city’s cutting and polishing industry is closely associate itself with hinutva mafia. Rough diamond activity in Israel was in high gear in June. Israel’s exports of rough diamonds skyrocketed, totaling $341 million, a 74.5 percent rise over the $195 million in rough diamonds in June 2006.

Critics of the diamond industry point to Botswana, the largest supplier of uncut diamonds in the world, where a fourth of the population lives on less than a dollar a day. A third of the people of are undernourished and the life expectancy is 36 years. Botswana has the second largest per capita AIDS rate on the planet, with nearly a quarter of the people infected. Similar conditions persist throughout the diamond-producing regions of the world.

Indian-Israeli trade – primarily in diamonds, machinery, chemicals, rubber and plastic – grew from $200 million in 1992 to $3 billion in 2006.

July 2007

Israel Desalination Enterprises Technologies (IDE) won two tenders to build three more desalination plants in Gujarat for $9.5 million. Earlier in 2002, IDE built a plant capable of producing 5,500 cu m in Gujarat province where it plans to build one of the plants. “Gujarat and Israel are divided by land but are united by water, in terms of its management and renewable resources’ Modi said. (Ahmedabad News Line, ExpressIndia.com, June 22, 2007)

Hindutva’s  “super patriotic” government in Gujarat also help Jews in Gujarat to migrate to their dream land. Loshana havah Yerusalim (Next year in Jerusalem) became the goal of this tiny population of little over 200 aspiring jews.

Indian drug manufacturer, Elder Pharmaceuticals Ltd said  it had entered into an exclusive in-licensing deal with Israel’s Enzymotec to sell the latter’s cholesterol reducing dietary supplement, CardiaBeat, in India.  Under the deal, Enzymotec will supply the bulk drug to Elder, which would make and sell the finished drug in India under the brand name of Lipicheck.

A study conducted by Elder pegs the size of the domestic cardio vascular drugs market at about Rs 4.5-5 billion, with an annual growth rate of 18-20 per cent, it said. CardiaBeat will be launched by September 2007 and is expected to generate revenue of nearly Rs 200 million by the end of the third year, the company said in a statement.

The technology giant, Cisco’s second biggest non-U.S. R&D facility is in Israel even though,  its Bangalore site is the largest in the world.

16 July 2007 

Human Trafficking to US: India’s Hindu party legislator recieved 20,000 US $ per person

April 28, 2007

I got Rs 800,000 per person, Katara says

Sahil Makkar, Indo-Asian News Service New Delhi, April 28, 2007

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Babubhai Katara, arrested for allegedly trying to smuggle people abroad, has told the police that he was paid Rs 800,000 for every person he helped to go abroad illegally, with his aide and travel agents pocketing most of the money made in the deals.

“I was given only Rs 800,000. I really don’t know if they charged Rs 3 or 4 million for sending people abroad with me,” Katara told officers interrogating him.

He stated this when confronted with statements of his aide Rajender Gampa and some travel agents that they used to charge Rs 3 to 4 million from each person who flew abroad in the company of the MP on the latter’s family’s passports.

Police say they have evidence that Katara and his associates were involved in flying out at least 12 people to the US and Britain. The Gujarat politician had personally taken six people with him.

“They have fooled me,” a police official quoted the MP as telling investigators during interrogation.

“Though he was paid a handsome amount, it were the agents and others involved in the human trafficking racket who arranged for the passports and clients and so took a larger share of the booty,” a senior police official told.

“Our investigations show that these travel agents were in some kind of agreement with the MPs and paid them a fixed amount every time they smuggled out a client abroad. Katara was given Rs 800,000. The rest of the money was distributed among the MP’s aides and agents,” the officer added.

Katara, who had reportedly earned around Rs 3.5 million through human trafficking, was apparently not aware that Sunder Lal Yadav, a travel agent, earned more than him simply by arranging the clients and documents.

The investigating officer also revealed that travel agents identified people who could cough up Rs 3 million to travel abroad. The agents had a wide and well-organised network spread through the small towns and cities in Punjab to the big cities in Andhra Pradesh.

The Crime Branch of Delhi Police, which is conducting the investigation, has identified five travel agents involved in the racket. Three are from Punjab (Joginder Singh, Santhu Masih and Harbhajan Singh), Hyderabad and New Delhi.

The racket came to light on April 18 when Katara was arrested at the airport in New Delhi while trying to fly out a woman, Paramjeet Kaur, and a 15-year-old boy Amarjeet Singh on the passports of his wife and son.

Police later arrested Gampa, Sunder Lal Yadav and their female accomplice Kiran Dhar on charges of forging documents and passports. Yadav was charged with arranging the visas.

Kiran allegedly taught women flying abroad how to act like an MP’s wife – and how to conduct before immigration officers.

Yadav told a court in New Delhi that three Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MPs from Uttar Pradesh – Mitrasen Yadav, Ashok Rawat and Mohammed Tahir Khan – and Ramswaroop Koli of BJP from Rajasthan were also involved in the racket.

And Gampa told the court that Katara as well Mitrasen Yadav and Ashok Rawat knew that he was using their letterheads to help people immigrate illegally.

Indians want to go to US and England : VS Naipaul

November 11, 2006

Indo-Asian News Service, Brussels, November 8, 2006
Nobel laureate VS Naipaul believes that India is heading for a cultural clash between the city-dwellers and the village population.

People in cities are turning their backs to Indian civilisation. They want green cards. They want to migrate. They want to go to England. They want to go to the US, Naipaul told media persons at the Centre For Fine Arts, Bozar, here.

“There is a fracture at this moment of great hope for India. A fracture in the country itself. It is possibly quite dangerous at the moment,” and added that the consequences “could be a very radical kind of revolution – village against city”.

However, at the same time, Naipaul said that India “is a very dynamic, moving culture.”

Naipaul aired similar views during the reading and interview session for the general public as part of the ongoing India Festival at the Bozar Saturday evening.

During the press meeting, Naipaul held forth on various issues, reports INEP agency.

“There is no tradition of reading in India. There is no tradition of contemporary literature,” he claimed. It was only in Bengal that there was a kind of renaissance and a literary culture, he said and added: “But in the rest of India until quite recently people had no idea what books were for.”

Reading in India, he claimed, was limited to books on wise sayings.

According to him,

“Indians have no regard for museums”

He recalled that Rabindranath Tagore’s house and university has been pillaged.

“They stole even his Nobel medal”, he said.

“The idea of a museum is a Western idea. It’s not an Indian idea. The idea is that these things are old, they are finished.”

Naipaul asserted that at the end the British rule in India was “very good.”

“They gave a lot back to India. All the institutions that now work in India were given by the British. So the British period was not that bad.”

He dismissed Mahatma Gandhi’s book “Indian home rule” published in 1909 as an “absurdity.” He said:

“Its an absurdity. He knows nothing. He said he wrote it in two weeks. He is against everything that is modern in 1909.”

Denouncing multiculturalism as a bad, destructive idea, he said: “Multiculturalism is a very much left-wing idea that gained currency about 20 years ago. It’s very destructive about the people it is meant to defend.”

He cited the example of Britain where he said there was a large immigrant population, “many of them bending the laws to be able to stay in England.”

“They wish to do that but at the same time they don’t wish to enter the culture. I think that is parasitic and awful.”

He defended the caste system in India, arguing that “caste is a great internal series of friendly societies and in bad times it kept the country going. But people don’t understand this. It has to be rethought and a new way of looking at it.

“In India it is having trouble at the moment because it rules politics. Foolish people think that the upper castes are oppressing the lower caste. It is the other way,” he said noting that lower castes have reserved seats in education and employment.

Asked if he felt like a European, he replied: “No, not at all. One doesn’t have to be one thing or the other. One can be many things at the same time.”

Could he live in India?

Naipaul paused for a moment, but his wife Nadira replied:

“Yes, quite happily, if we didn’t have a cat. Our cat is an English cat. It is hard for it to live in India, but we can.”

Naipaul added: “If you would have asked me this question fifty years ago, I had to say ‘out of the question’ It would have been impossible. So things are moving and changing all the time.”

2.3 million people of Indian ancestry : US Census Data

October 28, 2006

Indian community burgeoning in America

EDISON, N.J. — The train station billboards tell it all.

Local travel agents promise the best airfares from New York to Mumbai. Shagun Fashions is selling dazzling Indian saris. And DirecTV offers “the six top Indian channels direct to you.”

Roughly every third person who lives Edison, a New York suburb, is of Asian Indian ancestry. Many are new immigrants who have come to work as physicians, engineers and high-tech experts and are drawn to “Little India” by convenience _ it’s near the commuter train _ and familiarity.

Here they can “get their groceries and goods from home,” says Aruna Rao, a mental health counselor who lives in town.

Although a steady stream of Indians have settled in the U.S. since the 1960s, immigrants positively poured into the country between 2000 and 2005 _ arriving at a higher rate than any other group.

Not only is the Indian community burgeoning, it’s maturing. Increasingly, after decades of quietly establishing themselves, Indians are becoming more vocal in the American conversation  about politics, ethnicity and many other topics.

“I’ve been studying the community for 20 years and in the last four or five years something different has been happening,” said Madhulika Khandelwal, president of the Asian American Center at Queens College in New York. “Indian-Americans are finally out there speaking for themselves.”

Roughly 2.3 million people of Indian ancestry, including immigrants and the American-born, now call the U.S. home, according to 2005 Census data. That’s up from 1.7 million in 2000.

They have big communities in New Jersey, New York, California and Texas, and their average yearly household income is more than $60,000 _ 35 percent higher than the nation overall. Indian Americans, along with Indian expatriates worldwide, sent about $ 3 billion back to India in 2005, World Bank data show.

And so when Virginia Sen. George Allen was caught on video in August calling an Indian American man “macaca” _ a type of monkey and an offensive term _ the community quickly responded.

Within days after the reports emerged, Sanjay Puri, founder of the U.S. Indian Political Action Committee, and other Indian leaders in the Washington, D.C., area requested and got a lengthy meeting with Allen, Puri said. The senator publicly apologized.

If this had happened 10 years ago?

“It would have been a lot harder,” Puri said. “But this is a prosperous and fast-growing community. People are beginning to understand that we are contributing politically, so that made a big difference.”

Many Indian immigrants arrived in the U.S. focused almost entirely on individual success _ getting a top-notch job, making good money and pushing their children to do the same.

But things are changing. After the Sept. 11 attacks, many Indian Sikhs, who wear turbans as part of their faith, were mistaken for Muslims _ and terrorists. Hundreds were harassed or worse: In Mesa, Ariz., a Sikh gas station owner was shot and killed on Sept. 15, 2001, by a man who told police “all Arabs had to be shot.”

Few knew their rights because few had been engaged politically, said Amardeep Singh, executive director of The Sikh Coalition in New York.

“We were caught with our pants down,” he said. “Sept. 11 created a confrontation. We realized we now need to actively involve ourselves in the policy-making process. Otherwise policies will be made that exclude us.”

The group now has two bills pending in the New York city council _ one would allow city employees to wear turbans and the other would make city officials craft plans to prevent hate crimes if another terrorist attack happened. The community recently saw three Sikhs elected to low-level offices around the city. “It’s a good first step,” Singh said.

The push extends beyond Sikhs, Puri said.

“The question that every Indian-American is asking lately: Is the American dream _ making a lot of money and having fancy cars _ enough?” he said. “Giving back and being active is also happening.”

In New Jersey, Ready to Run, a Rutgers University-based project that helps women seek public office, will next year for the first time court Asian women, said Reema Desai, an immigration lawyer who is helping organize the outreach.

Indians also are working outside politics to influence broader society. They are overrepresented among college professors, engineers and technology workers. Between 10 percent and 12 percent of all medical school students are Indians, according to the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, the biggest physicians’ group in the nation after the American Medical Association.

Half of all motel rooms in the nation are owned by Indians, according to the Asian American Hotel Owners Association.

In New York City, Basement Banghra, a popular Indian music event that blends hip-hop rhythms with Indian melodies, attracts hundreds of partygoers to Sounds of Brazil nightclub each month. It will mark its 10th anniversary next year.

There are novelists, including Pulitzer Prize winner Jhumpa Lahiri of Brooklyn; filmmakers like Mira Nair, whose “The Namesake,” based on Lahiri’s novel and distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures, is due in theaters next spring; and prime-time television stars such as Parminder Nagra on “E.R.” and Naveen Andrews on “Lost.”

“Many of these things are converging around the same time, so it all adds up,” Khandelwal said. “It seems like every other day there’s a big book or movie or high-profile accomplishment.”

Increasingly, American-born Indians _ who call themselves Desis _ have the confidence to make their voices heard. “There is a clear rise of this generation,” she said.

With rapid growth, the community is becoming more complex.

Layered atop the dizzying diversity of India itself _ there are dozens of languages, and distinct regional differences in culture, politics and cuisine _ are growing class differences among Indian-Americans.

About one-tenth live in poverty, and as many as 400,000 are undocumented, said Deepa Iyer, executive director of South Asian American Leaders of Tomorrow in Takoma Park, Md.

“This is a community of contrasts,” Iyer said. “We hear so much about this highly educated and affluent group, but we also have segments that are not fluent in English and are battling immigration problems and hate crimes.”

Such topics are often discussed in New Jersey, home to 170,000 Asian Indians as of Census 2000. Many have fresh memories of gangs of anti-Indian white youth in the late 1980s in Jersey City _ then the nexus of the state’s Indian community _ who called themselves Dotbusters, referring to the decorative bindi some Hindi women wear between their eyebrows. In 1987, a finance manager was beaten to death with a baseball bat while his attackers shouted “Hindu! Hindu!”

Such crimes have diminished, but they never disappeared, said Singh of The Sikh Coalition. Last year, he said, two Sikh youth suffered violent harassment in New Jersey public schools.

In Edison in recent years, there’s been low-grade tension between Indians and police, residents said, and it erupted during this year’s July 4 celebrations. Police were called to a heavily Indian apartment complex to disperse a crowd of nearly 800, and one Indian man said he was beaten by police, said Jerry Barca, spokesman for Edison’s mayor.

When the community held a protest the next month, the man was arrested on the spot for being an illegal immigrant. He remains in federal custody.

“There’s definitely tension and suspicion,” said Rao, who has lived in Edison for seven years and said the problems have left some Indians disillusioned. “People feel like, ‘What am I doing in this country?’ A lot of it is, ‘I told you so. We’ll never be accepted or assimilated.'” She added that there are no Indians on Edison’s school board or city council.

City officials called on state mediators to help build bridges in the community, and the advisory body includes two Indian-Americans, Barca said. “It’s going to take time, but it’s good because now people in Edison are talking _ as opposed to `you live over there and we live over here,'” he said.

Desai, the immigration lawyer, has lived in New Jersey since she was 3, and said she sees many signs of positive change compared to a generation ago.

“We’ve made an impact in all sorts of things, and now you even have people knowing about our holidays and our culture,” she said. “Things are different now. We’re more visible.”

27 October 2006,By ERIN TEXEIRA AP National Writer
© 2006 The Associated Press