India Shining in the US - Hall of Shame!!!

On Monday, the Indian government itself consecrated the oft-circulated fiction as fact in Parliament, possibly laying itself open to a breach of privilege. By relaying to Rajya Sabha members, a host of unsubstantiated and inflated figures about Indian professionals in US, the government also made a laughing stock of itself.

The figures provided by the Minister of State for Human Resource Development, Purandeshwari, included claims that 38 per cent of doctors in US are Indians, as are 36 per cent of NASA scientists and 34 per cent of Microsoft employees.

There is no survey that establishes these numbers, and absent a government clarification, it appears that the figures come from a shop-worn Internet chain mail that has been in circulation for many years. Attempts by this correspondent over the years to authenticate the figures have shown that it is exaggerated, and even false. Both Microsoft and NASA say they don't keep an ethnic headcount. While they acknowledge that a large number of their employees are of Indian origin, it is hardly in the 30-35 per cent range.

Some of the popular myths…

  • In a 2003 interview with this correspondent, Microsoft chief Bill Gates guessed that the number of Indians in the engineering sections of the company was perhaps in the region of 20 per cent, but he thought the overall figure was not true.
  • NASA workers say the number of Indians in the organization is in the region of 4-5 per cent, but the 36 per cent figure is pure fiction.
  • The number of physicians of Indian-origin in the US is a little easier to estimate. The Association of American Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) has 42,000 members, in addition to around 15,000 medical students and residents.
  • There were an estimated 850,000 doctors in the US in 2004. So, conflating the figures, no more than ten per cent of the physicians in US maybe of Indian-origin – and that includes Indian-Americans – assuming not everyone is registered with AAPI.

These numbers in themselves are remarkable considering Indians constitute less than one per cent of the US population. But in its enthusiasm to spin the image of the successful global Indian to its advantage, the government appears to have milked a long-discredited spam - an effort seen by some readers as the work of a lazy bureaucrat and an inept minister.

"This minister (D. Purandeshwari) should be held accountable for misleading the members of parliament and the citizens of India. This just shows how illiterate and mentally defunct the current Indian govt. is," wrote Anand from Melbourne. Purandeshwari is not the first minister to use the dubious figures in a system where politicians depend heavily on their bureaucrats to furnish facts, figures, and speeches. Former home minister L.K.Advani used the same figures in a speech some years back on a visit to Washington DC.

Source: The Times of India report on Wednesday, March 12, 2008

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