Millennium Post

Why live in a dark alley

What happened with a Nigerian national in Goa last week was unfortunate. So was the comment of the state’s tourism minister. But one has to accept the fact that visibility of Nigerian nationals has increased manifolds not only in tourists’ paradise Goa, but thousands of them are living in Delhi and other northern cities and towns too. Does every Nigerian national get involved in one or the other crime? Do we observe them with prejudiced and racial mind? There are several other questions which need to be asked, and here’s a look on the intricacies pertaining to them…

Considerable rise in headcount

Though Delhi police and Foreigners Regional Registration Office are not willing to share any statistics on how many Nigerian nationals are living in the capital, their visibility is apparent in the capital’s hot spots like Saket Select City Walk mall, Vasant Vihar Shopping Complex, Connaught Place, Delhi Metro and South Extension. An estimated thousand students from African countries today live in the capital. Many Africans are also engaged in various jobs and businesses like export of garments, eatables and pharmaceuticals. Most of them live in rented accommodations in Uttam Nagar, Bindapur, Tilak Nagar, Vasant Vihar, Navada, Mehrauli, Chhatarpur, Neb Sarai, Khirki Extension and Chirag Delhi. Professor Anand Kumar from Jawahar Lal Nehru University (JNU), who is a known sociologist has said, ‘I have observed that a large number of students from African countries are coming to India because it has become an education hub. So many institutes are fetching foreign students just to get some thousand rupees extra and to add global outlook to their profile. Though whosoever is coming from Africa is not here to commit crime, still government must look into the matter seriously.’

Why accommodation in interiors best

These nationals from African countries can easily be seen commuting in Delhi Metro, buses and auto-rickshaws. Most of them manage to speak Hindi which helps them in bargaining with auto drivers and other vendors of their need. ‘Yes, when I first came to Delhi eight months before, first thing I needed was Hindi. Now I can manage my landlord, vegetable vendor and auto driver. Once you speak a word in Hindi their prices get down to half,’ told 24-year-old Atol from Nigeria, who has been living in Khirki Extension. While the property dealer Subhash Singh in Neb Sarai tells another interesting point, ‘They come to our office and always seek accommodation in interiors of the area. I think first reason behind is cheaper rent and second they avoid facing unnecessary police interrogation.’ While another Nigerian national tells, ‘Most of us are students and we have limited resources. So we prefer a place with comparatively lesser rent.’ Though Delhi police avoid saying anything on record, one beat constable on condition of anonymity says that the reason behind their interior accommodation is drug trafficking and other illegal activities like cyber crime and prostitution.  He also provides number of incidents where Delhi Police nabbed several groups indulging in multiple crimes. According to Delhi police data for 2012 and 2013 reflect their involvement in crimes related to drugs and cyber cheating. But the numbers are not very high.

Do we see them with prejudice?

Since the target group is Nigerian there are bound to be allegations of racism. ‘This is not surprising considering that many Indians are indeed racist when it comes to colour and nationality. People of African origin find it hard to find rental homes and are generally subject to racial abuse. The same is the case with our own nationals from the northeast. India has enough problems with illegal immigrants, notably from Bangladesh. It really needs to strengthen its screening process and the systems that enable the authorities to track foreigners who have entered the country on short duration visas. But this should not be used as a weapon to harass students or those who have come here to work,’ said a known blogger and writer on condition anonymity.  While IT professional Vivek Arora believes, ‘It takes three months for us to get a US visa, but procuring an Indian visa is much easier in Nigeria. The entire process is completed within a week. The government will have to strengthen the system of issuing visas as a large number of Nigerians with bad intent are gaining entry and indulging in crimes.’

What is the way out

When there seem to be so many problems with Nigerian nationals’ arrival, Vikas Vashisht, a PhD student in Panjab University Chandigarh said, ‘India needs to correct immigration and public perception and bring best of Africa to India by incentives and retain them. Weed the wrong one out and bring the good one. USA has NBA programme for Africa to bring in best basketball players from Africa and athletes as well. USA/Europe get best brains from India and world by high studies incentives, fellowship, jobs etc.

India needs to have better immigration laws like UK and USA, immigration for qualified who get a job, immigration for those who want to invest in legitimate business, etc. Even UK/USA/etc deny tourist visa when their criteria is not met.’ Professor Kumar still believes, ‘Africa has been a land of Nelson Mandela’s struggle and people coming from that land must realize that they are representatives of that glory. They should save themselves from getting labeled as criminals in all over the world.’
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