MEDIA grandstanding must stop: FISA is making impractical and irrelevant demands.
We are concerned about impractical and irrelevant demands which FISA seems to be making. We have seen their 10 point charter and considered it carefully. We see some serious problems in their thought-process and offer following response point by point;
1) Free two weeks board to welcome Indian students:
If Melbourne’s 100,000-strong Indian community gave each student 2 week’s free boarding it would help them find their feet in a new country. (Note: the City of Darwin has launched borders without borders program with the general Australian community along these lines. Sure the Indian community can help with free accommodation). Together we can help students settle easily as many professional Indians have large homes with empty rooms.
OUR RESPONSE: It is not practical and realistic to expect established Indian Australians to provide boarding for any number of weeks to Indian students. How can one provide such boarding when they do not even know them? There is no justification for such a ridiculous suggestion. FISA’s suggestion is nothing but media grand standing. This type of suggestion is not going to solve the accommodation issues which students face in Australia. It is our belief that education providers who make money from these students must arrange accommodation for the initial 3-6 months at a market cost. This would allow these students to get used to the system here and give them sufficient confidence to be able to find the appropriate rental accommodation.
2) Donate to the FISA victims of crime fund
Indian migrants are one of the richest migrant groups in Australia. Indian businesses and professionals can afford to donate generously to the FISA victims of crime fund so that victims like Sravan Kumar who was savagely attacked in his home in Glenroy are looked after properly.
OUR RESPONSE: FISA is not able to think beyond media grand standing. Any Victim of crime fund will never have sufficient money to cover the medical expense of the nature which Sravan Kumar needs. The ICU fees for one day could be something like $5000 and it could go for more than $100000 for one victim. No community can and will be able to arrange funds of this nature. Making such suggestions is completely unrealistic. Expenses on the treatment for a Victim of crime must be covered by the Gov/Medicare which is the case with the Victim of petrol bomb attack in Sydney. We believe that every student must maintain valid, appropriate and current medical cover insurance for a situation when they need treatment due to injuries or illnesses. This is not the case with many students presently. Ongoing and current medical cover insurance must be a condition for the continuation of the VISA.
3) Free medical checkup from Indian doctors
The local Indian community has thousands of medical doctors and medical specialists. By offering free medical checkups to students we can ensure they are looked after health wise while they are here. This will also ensure a point of contact that is badly needed.
OUR RESPONSE: Medical doctors will/do provide free medical check-ups in some situations but this is not going to be the solution which FISA seems to be suggesting. Medical doctors cannot provide free treatment in case of admissions in ICU etc and cannot provide free medicines. As before, FISA’s suggestion is completely unrealistic and is indicative of media grand standing. Again, we believe that every student must hold a valid, current and appropriate medical cover insurance while in Australia and this must be a condition for their VISA. If they have this cover, they do not need to depend on the charity from anyone.
4) Free legal advice from Indian lawyers
the local Indian community has thousands of lawyers. By offering free legal service the established Indian community can help students on critical issues. Indian lawyers could also join together to lodge human rights cases against Victorian and Australian governments, education institutions and immigrations agents who are ripping off many students with false claims and promises. Lawyers could also help lodge disputes for unfair treatment and discrimination at work.
OUR RESPONSE: Free legal assistance from Indian Australian Lawyers and free service from every Indian Australian for our students would be great but is not going to happen. This suggestion is completely impractical and unrealistic. Our students are getting ripped off by so many and they include agents in India, some education providers and some immigration agents but we cannot see that our lawyers or other professionals would provide free services at all times. We believe that Federal Gov must establish an Ombudsman immediately to deal with these issues. Decisions from the Ombudsman cannot be challenged in a court. FISA must stop media grand standing.
5) More student Hotlines in all Indian languages
we need all community groups to chip in and establish hotlines in all Indian languages. These need to be staffed with qualified counselors. Most students look to the Indian association that speaks their language. Few have heard of FIAV or other umbrella groups.
OUR RESPONSE: Helpline should be in English language and not in Indian languages. All students are able to speak and understand English which is a condition of their VISA. Our students need to integrate. Nobody is going to start help lines in all Indian languages. It would be impossible to arrange funding for such ridiculous ideas. We leave FISA and FIAV to sort out their turf war in Melbourne. What is the stand of FISA in Sydney where they are part of an umbrella group but not chairing the students’ committee of that umbrella group? They were nowhere to be seen when our committee and that umbrella group held a combined meeting recently. Despite FISA and that Umbrella group’s public stand against the Rally in Sydney, they did not follow their words.
6) Safety watch committees
Local established Indian groups could adopt a station to provide community or neighborhood watch committees. If middle class and educated people are at stations at night then the risk of attacks will be reduced. Police are more likely to listen to wealthy professional Indians than students. In addition these safety watch committees can report back to Police and work to reduce poor lighting and other hazards at stations in the poorer suburbs.
OUR RESPONSE: Safety watch by established Indian Australians is not the solution. This suggestion is ridiculous. FISA seems to come out with immature, impractical and inappropriate suggestions. We do not need a parallel security apparatus for Indians in Australia. We are part of the same Australian community and our problems will need to be solved within the holistic approach to safety/security issues. We do need to put sufficient pressure on the Governments/Police to intensify the patrolling, under-cover policing and adopt proactive measures to stop the crimes against our students.
7) Political power – the great Indian vote boycott
Established Indians have huge political power given that they live in large numbers in marginal seats in the Melbourne’s more affluent east. By refusing to vote for the major Liberal and Labor parties until action is taken to ensure students safety they can send a powerful message to state and federal government. Established Indians should boycott voting for major parties until students’ demands are met and their security assured. Politicians are power hungry and will meet our demands if they know established Indians are boycotting their parties. By boycotting both parties, we will also stop the state and federal opposition’s ‘political play acting’ and get them to vote for real changes in parliament for Indian students.
OUR RESPONSE: The suggestion of boycotting the main political parties is a crazy idea. We, in fact, need to join them and participate in the political process in Australia. We will be more effective if we join them. FISA guys, please get real. Indians in Australia do not subscribe to a victim mentality and we do not want any of us to adopt a victim’s mentality. We need to analyze, debate and formulate a proper strategy to stop the crime against our students. We must accept that some crimes will continue to happen as they happen against non-Indians.
8) Public shaming of community rip off merchants
in many cases landlords, bosses, immigration agents and education institutions are ripping off our Indian students. Indian community groups need to name and shame these people who are bringing the reputation of Indians in to disrepute and exploiting Indian students. Each community groups could publish the name of ‘rip off merchants’ on their websites so that students know exactly who they should avoid.
OUR RESPONSE: Public naming and shaming of the “rip off merchants” from our or other communities is again an impractical suggestion. It would lead to legal cases and unnecessary legal fees and damages. No individual or association with sane mind will do the public naming or shaming. FISA guys, please get real. Yesterday, the committee of education ministers and federal education minister has announced a helpline which students can call if they have a complaint and they can do so anonymously. They will also be doing a rapid and effective audit of the “Fly by night” schools which have mushroomed in every suburb in Australian cities. These schools need to be audited effectively if Australia wants to continue growing the $16 billion education industry.
9) Free food kitchens across Melbourne to help students survive
many students are now unemployed or working for as little as one quarter of the legal minimum wage. (Note: The Sikh Temple in Blackburn in Melbourne’s east currently feeds thousands of students seven days a week and is happy to extend this to other suburbs. But we need more Australian Indians to help in southern, northern and western suburbs.
OUR RESPONSE: FISA should remember that they are students and not refugees. Temples should not be converted to Vincent de Paul societies. While community members are able to help on a case to case basis for any genuine or temporary situations, long term free feeding of students would result in too much burden on the local Indian community and might lead into negative effects. Students are expected to have adequate financial capabilities for their stay in Australia according to student Visa conditions. It is not a bright idea to expect the Indian community and temples to provide free food seven days a week for the rapidly growing student population. In addition who is going to fund this type of “free kitchens for students?” and for how long?
10) Local Indians to support FISA demands
Established Indians can call their local MPs and lobby them to support FISA 10 point plan for better student safety.
Many Australian MPs are not scared of students because they do not vote and will not take FISA’s demands seriously. These MPs are more likely to address FISA’s student demands if the local voting Indian’s call, email and write to politicians demanding action on student safety. If Premier John Brumby receives 100,000 letters and Kevin Rudd receives 200,000 letters from local voting Indians then they will both act swiftly on Indian student safety.
OUR RESPONSE: This is nothing but a cheap publicity stunt and a copy cat of typical Indian politics carried out in Australia in the name of student issues. Both Australian Government and the Indian Government have agreed at the Prime Minister level to take immediate measures addressing student concerns including safety related issues. FISA seems to have run out of ideas in getting the local support for their “10 point” demands and it is a joke to think that Kevin Rudd will act only after receiving 200,000 letters. The Indian community will be a laughing stock even if a few members support this funny idea of sending mass mail.
We urge FISA guys to think through anything before jumping with suggestions which are laughable and unrealistic. FISA guys need to discuss with others before going on media grand standing with half-cooked and ridiculous ideas.
Indian Consul General’s Community Committee on Indian Students’ Issues
PS: This was the response we gave to Indian Link newspaper which asked the committee to provide its response/views in regards to the FISA’s 10 points charter.
Please note that the above-mentioned committee had completed its job and provided its reports/recommendations to the relevant authorities. It had then dissolved itself at the end of June 2009. The committee had communicated its decision to the Consul General on 1/7/09.