This is our tenth-anniversary issue, and one way of celebrating this momentous occasion is by putting our gaze on what we think are the ten most important issues for the Kiwi-Indian community.
The choice of these issues may appear arbitrary; however, they are based on our experience of covering and reporting developments around them.
We present an overview of how development or lack of any timely development, around those issues, has affected our community expectations in the past ten years.
The issues presented here in no way are exhaustive and touch every member of the community. However, most of the issues are likely to have affected quite a large section of our fellow Kiwi-Indian community.
The issues that we think are important for Kiwi-Indian migrants at different stages of their respective lifecycles are discussed below, not necessarily in any particular order.
New Zealand is a nation build by immigration, with most of its dwellers having arrived in this country at different times under different waves of migration.
The Kiwi-Indians, though, have been in this country since the eighteenth century, but have really started gaining in numbers when immigration policy was first liberalised in 1987, allowing immigrants on the basis of skills and not a country of origin.
Till around 2009, when this newspaper came into existence, the size of the Kiwi-Indian community had already increased to decent numbers, especially in Auckland, the largest city.
However, it was after 2009, that there was a notable surge in the number of Indians coming to New Zealand, first on temporary visas, and then subsequently seeking permanent visas in the country. The period 2009 onward witnessed a large number of Indian students arriving in the country for international education, which contributed massively in the export earnings of the country from the international education. This also brought in a large readily available workforce for Kiwi businesses to flourish. Those who have seen New Zealand’s city of sails transform from a sluggish South Pacific town to a bustling world-class mega city vouch for the contribution of ethnic migrant workers, particularly Kiwi-Indians in the last decade.
The fact that now Auckland has numerous late-night operational petrol stations and supermarkets, previously unseen ten years ago, is a stark reminder of the increased number of new ethnic migrants arriving during this period.
However, the surge in immigration numbers also brought in the increased level of anxiety within the community, as slowly the stories of fraud in dealing with the immigration system started to emerge, increasing pressure on INZ and the other law-abiding immigration-hopefuls.
In the preceding decade, especially in the later half, the stories of immigration-frauds started gaining traction, and The Indian Weekender was at the forefront of raising those voices, much before the mainstream media picked it up.
The much-publicised story of few desperate students, their families, and a kid taking shelter in a Ponsonby Church, woke New Zealand out of slumber. The Indian Weekender had remained vigilantly stationed on ground zero for quite some time, reporting, covering, interviewing, and analysing the fast changing situation.
In the last few years, especially in the lead up to the last general elections the script of immigration has gone awry with many loud and boisterous calls of slashing of immigration numbers in the league of tens of thousands.
That anxiety further spiralled up right till the elections, before settling restlessly in recent times after conclusion of the elections.
The recent progress of immigration policy in the country, where raising the bar of entry conditions, along with uncertainty around visas for close family members, including partners and parents is a major source of current anxiety levels within the Kiwi-Indian community.
Since this is an existential issue for the Kiwi-Indian community, The Indian Weekender has always remained at the forefront of not only covering and reporting on the issue but also holding those responsible for policies to account by asking tough questions.
2. Law and Order
Safety, and law and order have emerged as a major concern of the Kiwi-Indian community, particularly in the last few years, of the preceding decade.
This is despite New Zealand’s image of being one of the safest countries in the world with minimal crime rates.
For people living in the country for decades, including dairies and small business owners who have recently come at the forefront of the rising tide of petty criminal activities, affirms that this recent surge in crime was a major aberration.
Notably, the period from the second half of 2016 started to witness a steep rise in incidences of burglaries, robberies, and assaults, especially on small businesses generating a deep anxiety within the broader community for safety and general well-being.
A report from Statistics New Zealand had then shown that both burglary and robbery incidents have risen sharply within the past year - both by more than 15 per cent.
Assaults were up by nine per cent, sexual assault by 4.4 per cent, abduction and kidnapping by 3.4 per cent.
The ensuing period witnessed intense activity by the police, community, politicians and Ministers from the government of assuaging community-concerns and sharing information on enhancing security measures.
There were a few notable decisions such as increasing the police numbers, making burglary a “priority offence” instead of “volume-crime,” thus requiring police to attend all house break-ins.
The Indian Weekender has shown leadership in not only covering and reporting on the issues, but also raising victim’s voices and agonies with the decision-makers.
Notably, The Indian Weekender has also voiced the community’s concerns on how the future of reforms in the criminal justice system should cater to community’s needs and expectations.
Availability or the lack of work is a critical lifeline for the Kiwi-Indian community to be able to settle down well in their new country of residence.
Given that the major influx in the size of the Kiwi-Indian community has been from India, with mostly people arriving for international education on student visas, their dependency on finding a legitimate work has been critical for succeeding in this new country.
It’s not to suggest that the importance of work recedes once people move from student visas to other temporary or permanent visas.
It’s just to acknowledge the fact that finding job and then holding on to those jobs, at least for the first few years in a migrant life-cycle is critically important for their ability to sustain in the new country and in most cases service the huge financial debts that they have taken back in their home-countries.
This is why often lack of work opportunity is a major cause of mental stress for many in the community.
The Indian Weekender has an good understanding of the community’s underlying job issues ranging from availability of jobs regardless of skill level to be under-employed in the low-skilled jobs.
Yes – one unfortunate saga of the migrant Kiwi-Indian community is the acute under-employment of highly skilled people like doctors, engineers, accountants, scientists and many others who were trained in foreign countries and failed to secure jobs matching their skills.
A large number of these highly-skilled people end up working in low-skilled jobs of driving taxis, kitchen hands, and retail store operators – often causing much mental distress.
4. Migrant worker exploitation
With immigration and jobs, comes the issue of migrant worker exploitation that continues to beleaguer the Kiwi-Indian community.
The mutually experienced sense of desperation around immigration and jobs often leads to extremely repugnant situation of migrant-worker exploitation.
This is a serious and complex issue for the Kiwi-Indian community, where often tempers run high, as there are tendencies to see the entire issue from the binary of “good-bad” and “right-wrong.”
In absence of incentives of rewarding the good employers for following best practice in employee management, some black sheep, often indulge in exploiting the delicate power-imbalance between the employer and employee, and in extreme cases bringing acute human miseries.
While those external to the community, and some activists within community, tend to see the entire issue with a sharp dividing line between employers and employees, often causing much mistrust between them.
The general sentiment within the community is of not fanning the dissention between those who work diligently for a dignified decent living, and those who risk everything and work diligently too to create businesses and jobs.
Often employers themselves are single operated small businesses working long hours to financially sustain the business and support others by creating jobs.
In the preceding decades as the size of the community has increased, so has the issue of migrant worker exploitation.
Does racism exist in this country and has it been an important issue for the Kiwi-Indian community in the last ten years?
“Undeniably, yes” was the answer when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was posed with this question in April 2018 on the national radio – a point that has been time and again reiterated by several successive Human Rights Commissioners and Race Relation Commissioners in the last few years.
How bad it is, or is perceived, by the Kiwi-Indian community is the important issue.
The views and perception in response to this question vary on the scale from moderate to extreme.
While some believe that NZ has been an inherently peaceful country with minimal evidence of extreme cases of racial intolerance and overt attacks on those perceived to be different, there are many, who are concerned about the rising and all-pervading subtle racism in day-to-day lives.
For people living in the country for decades, despite the presence of subtle racism for a long time, the acute cases of racial intolerance and the violence associated with that have dramatically risen in the last decade.
In 2019, that racial intolerance has an altogether new and shocking expression in the form of Christchurch terror attack that has irreversibly changed the delicately balanced equilibrium around race relations in this country leaving the entire nation equally stunned.
How our nation will collectively respond to this extreme form of expression of racism remains to be seen, but yes, it has certainly brought to the fore the grave consequences of racism.
Indeed, this is a major issue for the Kiwi-Indian community, and The Indian Weekender is committed to keeping an eye, report, create awareness and do the due diligence. The Indian Weekender was deeply involved in the coverage of the unfortunate incident of Christchurch terror attack, and in the process experience, like everyone else in the country, tremendous pain and stress in facing the families of victims and injured.
The issue of racism in our society has taken a steep rise this year, forcing everyone to sit back and realise that our country is not remotely located anymore on the world map immune from problems previously thought to be alien to us.
Notably, the period of The Indian Weekender’s existence (2009-2019) is a minuscule period in comparison to the total time since the earliest of Kiwi-Indian settlers have been in the country.
By that time the members of Kiwi-Indian community had entirely changed their occupation patterns, moving away from earlier preferences of farming and rural work opportunities to gaining new interest into retail trade. Many members of the community had invested in dairies (convenience stores) and restaurants.
However, in this period, following the new wave of migration of new Kiwi-Indians who first arrived as international students and temporary workers, the preferences shifted to more skilled jobs and professions such as Information and Technology, education, engineering and medicine.
Despite the recent change of preferences toward more skilled employment in the retail sector still, account for about 16.3 per cent of all Kiwi-Indians in employment.
And business-ownership still remains a cherished dream for many enthusiasts in the community. The community has a deep interest in the general business environment, including the issue of safety in small businesses, and The Indian Weekender is committed to bringing news, views, and opinions about businesses.
As a general passing comment, it would not be an exaggeration to say that majority of Kiwi-Indian business owners, like other Kiwi-businesses, have enjoyed the long period of an oasis of continued economic growth despite a global financial crisis.
Undeniably, the dream of home-ownership has a universal appeal, but for the Kiwi-Indian community, home-ownership is a definitive stage in their migrant life-cycle.
Owning a home, immediately after finding their feet in the new country of residence after securing permanent visas, is a cherished goal of the majority of members of the Kiwi-Indian community.
The issue of home-ownership has been at the centre stage of attraction in the last couple of years, particularly in Auckland – the largest city of New Zealand where almost 65 per cent of the Kiwi-Indian community resides – and for all wrong reasons of not affordability.
However, despite all the current chatter on the issue of affordability around home-ownership, a majority of community members especially who have lived in the country for a long time perceives that things have progressively become better in the last decade. The news around low-interest regime, slashing of Official Cash Rates, the future trajectory of the general housing market, the challenges of first home ownership, the availability of easy credit have been of significant interest for the Kiwi-Indian community.
The Indian Weekender has always served its audiences with all the news and developments around home-ownership in this preceding decade.
Like some of the other major issues of significance for the community, there has not been any major exceptional development or downward spiral, in issues around women in the preceding decade of The Indian Weekender’s existence.
On one hand a large number of women has used the newly found freedom in their new country of residence to their full advantage and pushed the envelopes of achieving success in their respective chosen fields of occupation – jobs, businesses or politics.
The fact that out of the current level of total Kiwi-Indian representation in the New Zealand parliament – the highest law making body in the country – 66 per cent are of women (2 women MPs) deserves many accolades.
Contrarily, on the other hand, a large number of women still continue to suffer and endure pain from the age old ills of domestic violence, gender inequality, and multiple layers of discrimination around class, ethnicity, disability and religion.
The Indian Weekender has kept tabs on both, the celebratory stories around success of the Kiwi-Indian women, and advocacy stories around uplifting of women facing discrimination an supporting those involved in the advocacy work.
9. Political participation
Our communities’ political participation, both as electorates and aspirants of political positions, has been at best questionable. The Kiwi-Indian communities, like all other ethnic minority migrant communities have been reluctant to come out boldly for political participation as both, informed electorates and ambitious participants.
The targeted efforts by the electoral commission and political parties eyeing on the vast masses of potential voters have some limited success in creating some awareness and interest.
In this regard, The Indian Weekender has played a key role in raising awareness on important political issues, generating public debate around key issues of the Indian community, shaping opinions, and to some extent, inculcating political ambitions within the community.
Despite having three current Kiwi-Indian MPs in the NZ parliament, numbers does not match up with the proportionate number of the total numbers of the Kiwi-Indian population in the country.
In recent years, we have seen a slight surge in the number of people coming out of their comfort zones and putting their names forward for elections, be it at the national or local or community board elections.
However, this is a work in progress and The Indian Weekender is committed to keeping our readers and the broader community fully informed.
10. Access to Indian culture & entertainment
One major progress that the community has witnessed in the last decade has been in the increased access to the avenues of Indian culture and entertainment.
Following the incredible growth in the number of recent immigrants in the last decade, there has been a marked progress in the entire entertainment and cultural - circuit serving and fulfilling the needs of the Kiwi-Indian community.
There has been a tremendous increase in the number of mega shows bringing Bollywood celebrities, artists, performers, musical shows, theatres, movies, along with access to traditional artefacts of culture such as temples, festivals and other community events.
Undeniably, the Kiwi-Indian migrants of this period would have felt less home-sick as they had far more opportunities of connecting with their culture and entertainment.
However, as many members of the community have confided with The Indian Weekender that all this access has been to those living in Auckland, while a majority of those living outside Auckland have still very limited access to Indian art, culture and entertainment.