In a recent blog post, I wrote about some studies from Africa which show that emigration might not be a zero sum game, and hence, brain drain might bring some benefits to the country which is losing its trained man power. The study in question relates to the improvements in the health care systems of those African countries which are losing their trained man-power due to brain drain; in that sense, the brain drain does bring some material benefits to the mother country. In this post, I would like to show that those are not the only benefits.

At least in the Indian context, the Indian diaspora also brings a huge amount of monetary flow in to India; for example, take a look at this blog post by Alex Thomas, which explains the trade-off between brain drain and remittances wonderfully (with data, references and neat explanations).

There are also some soft benefits that the so-called brain drain brings. As an example, let me take the case of Prof. Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar. Chandra became a naturalised US citizen in 1953 (30 years prior to his being awarded the Nobel prize); however, I am yet to come across an Indian physicist who is conscious of his citizenship–in Indian physics circles he is spoken as an insider; as countless reminiscences of Chandra in Current Science (here is one for example (pdf)) show, Chandra contributed quite a lot to the Indian science and science establishment. By the way, the soft benefits of brain drain is not just with reference to scientists and engineers along — take a look at this essay of Shashi Tharoor, where he answers the question “Why NRIs matter to India?” for example.

Before I end this post, I need to address a couple of issues raised by a few of the comments in my earlier post:

  1. It is wrong to believe that by becoming a citizen of a different country, a person becomes suspect in his/her loyalty to India; the Indian identity, by definition is plural, and is in some sense spiritual (as Raja Rao used to insist); and,
  2. It is true that life outside of India could be alluring; however, that is no reason to believe that (a) there is no room for improvement, and (b) that even under the present circumstances some are not willing to come back to India; take a look at this rather old article about returning to India from abroad, for example (and, needless to say, things have improved since then).

Thus, in the final analysis, while we need to improve the economic and social conditions in India so that more and more people would tend to stay back in India (or return to India), we should also be  inclusive enough in our outlook towards those who have emigrated, for, they also contribute to Indianness (and, its economy) as much as those who live in India.