This Article is From Jun 08, 2020

Coronavirus Pandemic Hits Immigration Dreams, Industry In Punjab

The coronavirus pandemic has brought all emigration from Punjab to a halt, hitting hard all those whose livelihoods depends on the multi-crore informal industry. State acknowledges the issue but has not been able to promise anything to stakeholders.

On an average, a student in Punjab spends around Rs. 10 lakh on the immigration process.


In the contemporary imagination of Punjab, migrating to a foreign country for better opportunities is synonymous with its culture and a non-resident Indian, or NRI, is a celebrated figure actively courted by the state as a partner in development. But the coronavirus pandemic has brought all such activities to a halt, hitting hard all those whose livelihoods depend on the multi-crore informal industry built around emigration.

As per official estimates, 1.5 lakh students migrate to foreign countries every year.

To achieve this, the first stop for any fresh graduate is the office of an immigration consultant and then a coaching centre for the International English Language Testing System, or IELTS, test - a must to gain citizenship abroad.

On an average, a student spends around Rs. 10 lakh on the process.

There are around 6,000 English language coaching centres in the state. On an average, they charge Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 20,000 from each student, making Punjab's IELTS coaching industry worth Rs. 20,000 crore.

But this multi-crore informal education sector has taken a severe hit as the coronavirus disease has hampered international travel and posed new health challenges.

Students such as Hitesh, whose only dream was to attend college abroad so he could a land high-paying job, stare at an uncertain future.

In Bathinda, Hitesh's mother had saved around Rs. 14 lakh from her income as a beautician for his education.

"I had planned to recover the cost of my studies by earning while learning in Canada because I also have to manage the marriage expenses of am my elder sister. Online classes being offered by the college is as good as watching a YouTube videos. One certainly misses the classroom experience, which would have been enriching," he said.

The pandemic has also hit hard people like Ashish Ahuja, who is an immigration consultant and runs an IELTS coaching centre in Jalandhar district.

Since both his centres have remained shut for more than two months, he is staring at an uncertain future even when India is planning to slowly opens its international borders as well.

"The coaching centres have been shut since March 18, but we have had to continually bear expenses such as rent, power and internet bills. International flights will resume from next month, but things are uncertain. My staff doesn't know if and when they will be able to resume work," Mr Ahuja said.

The state government acknowledges the issue but has not been able to promise anything to the stakeholders due to restrictions imposed because of the coronavirus.

"We acknowledge the problem. Some coaching centre owners have discussed their problems with our district-level officials but they are not allowed to operate due to lockdown guidelines. We hope that the situation will get better in coming days," State Secretary of NRI Affairs Rahul Bhandari said.