The deaths of two students in Toronto, Canada in the last two months have rattled the Gujarati community. Even as investigations are on, the increasing number of students moving overseas for greener pastures ought to raise an alarm.
A Canadian media recently highlighted a surge in the repatriation of deceased Indian youth from 16 in 2019 to 33 in 2022. Many of them died by suicide.
What explains their desperation to move to countries like Canada? A report indicates that it’s not necessarily big money but a need to eke out a living.
Hemant Shah, director of Canada-India Trade & Marketing at Overseas Friends of India-Canada (OFIC), told a national daily that following the pandemic, they receive 15-20 calls from Gujaratis every month, usually tinged with desperation.
The calls, the daily reported, go up to 50 a month to informal groups who are approached for student issues, poor academic scores, and unrewarding jobs.
Roughly out of 3.19 lakh Indian students who pursued studies in Canada last year, more than 20,000 are estimated to be from Gujarat, claimed Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) data.
Dr Amresh Srivastava, a psychiatrist with the Toronto-based NGO Sahyog, who handles queries of disillusioned Indian students in Canada, told the daily, “There are many Gujarati students in Canadian universities. They face challenges such as homesickness, adapting to multicultural college environments, and finding a foothold regarding jobs and accommodation. Many arrive with the misguided belief that everything will fall into place once they land in Canada.”
They are unable to cope with the expectations of parents and society, study loans, peer pressure in educational institutions, and balancing professional and academic responsibilities.
“Securing PR remains challenging, with only around 6 or 7% of Gujaratis achieving this goal. The mental state of the remaining 93% is a cause for concern,” an immigration expert, who wasn’t named, was quoted as saying.
Fortunately, many informal groups and individuals are going out of their way to support them in Canada. Indian students are receiving overwhelming support from the Gujarati community: senior students or informal organisations.
A 20-year-old student at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver admitted that without timely help, she would have been lost in the first month in Canada.
The feeling that someone is available during crises makes a big difference, a student, who didn’t want to be named, admitted.