British Prime Minister David Cameron is an honourable man. I am aware that he has taken up leadership at a crucial time in British history when his country's economy needs a miracle. Every Head of the State, and that includes all the permanent members of the UN Security Council, are therefore turning towards India and China throwing all kinds of baits to get a finger in the pie. David Cameron is no exception. In fact, he was the first among the unequals (I always consider the UN permanent members of the Security Council as being unequal among the equals) to take a voyage to India.
Speaking at London on Thursday, David Cameron claimed "an Indian organisation which made money out of sending migrants to Britain had put up a billboard in India with a picture of London's red bus and a banner reading: “Get a free ride to London”. He cited this as an example of how “bogus” immigrants were “playing the system” to gain entry by masquerading as students or dependants of British families.
In a hard-hitting speech, Mr. Cameron said his government was determined to stop the “abuse” of the system by taking action “across all routes of immigration”. He said there was widespread abuse of student visas with people using them to come to Britain to find jobs. Many did not return to their countries after the visa expired. The billboard, he suggested, showed how getting to Britain had been reduced to a joke." [See the news report Cameron slams Indian “free ride to London” The Hindu, April 15, 2011 http://bit.ly/hsKSC1]
Well, there is nothing that should get David Cameron so excited. Such billboards are all over the country. In fact, as I drove to the nearest internet cafe in Mohali (in Punjab) to write down this blog, I had come across a number of such billboards which entice prospective customers with similar promises. What David Cameron thinks is a 'free ride to London' is not a free ride. More of than not those who aspire to be immigrating have to sell-off everything they own. They are duped to the core, and often return back deposed and devoid of all they owned.
I can understand David Cameron's fury and angst. At a time when everyone swears in the name of free markets, none of the UN Permanent Members of the Security Council are willing to allow skilled and unskilled workers from the developing countries. The issue of movement of labour, which comes under various categories of Mode 1-4 in the WTO discussions, has not made any headway. Whether we like it or not, the western countries are trying to create the illusion of development and economic growth in a bid to gain a stranglehold of developing country markets. But when it comes to discussing the movement of workers across countries, they simply refuse to talk.
History has shown that migration does help the countries where the poor migrants head to and also the countries from where they come from. If the economists and policy makers (and that includes WTO) are really keen to see that the world grows economically they should focus on how to increase migration across countries.
But the fact remains that no one wants to see a coloured person in his/her neighbourhood.
Coming back to David Cameron's outburst against the free riders, let me put the record straight. Almost a year back when David Cameron had travelled to India he too had lobbied hard (and backed up the efforts by asking every visiting trade and development delegation to continue with the pressure) to push for the entry of supermarket retail chains. He had convinced Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (knowing well that Indian PM does not need to be convinced. All you need is to announce another honorary degree for him) on the urgency to open up for Tesco/Sainsbury and other retail chains into India.
I want to ask David Cameron. I would like know how David cameron's effort are any different from that of a travel agent who is trying to send a worker across by legal/illegal means? Isn't what he has been trying to do akin to 'free ride'? Isn't this a cruel joke on India? You have said that Tesco/Sainsbury will create thousands of jobs in India. If you read recent news reports emanating from London, Tesco/Sainbury have failed to live up to the promise of creating thousands of jobs even in the UK in the past two years. In fact, they have actually laid off more than 700 people in the past two years against the promise of creating some 24000 jobs. Isn't this 'abuse' of the system? What have you done to stem the rot in your own country, Mr Prime Minister?
In many ways I see a similarity. Prime Ministers and Presidents of the rich countries are no different from the 'bogus' immigration companies that are 'playing the system' to gain, masquerading as engines of economic growth. Developing countries are being exploited in the name of economic growth. What the immigration company with the billboard reading 'Get a free ride to London' claims is exactly what honourable people like David Cameron is also indulging in. You too are giving your companies a 'free ride", Mr Prime Minister? They end up doing more damage than the illegal immigrants that you complain about.
The only difference being that the 'bogus' immigration company can't armtwist elected governments of the developing countries like you do. They simply try to circumvent the system that they know they can easily do. The scale is different but the motive is the same.
We must therefore put a stop to all those who are trying to 'playing the system'. Whether it is the Prime Minister or a 'bogus' immigration company, they are equally at harm.