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India slams 'ferocious' attacks

25 June 09 08:30 GMT
By Sunil Raman
BBC News, Delhi

India's overseas minister Vayalar Ravi has expressed concern over the "ferocity" of recent attacks on Indian students in Australia.

Mr Ravi told the BBC that the attacks have become more "aggressive".

He said the primary reason for such attacks was robbery and that a few could be called racial attacks.

The attacks have caused outrage in India and prompted Australian PM Kevin Rudd to reassure the Indian government that Australia is not a racist country.

More than a dozen Indian students have been attacked in Melbourne and Sydney recently, reports say.

Mr Ravi said that Mr Rudd's intervention had forced the police of Victoria state to make a few arrests. That has led to fewer attacks, he said.

He blamed criminal elements - some of them immigrants - for these attacks.

Mr Ravi said better policing was required to stop such incidents.

"There was failure of law enforcement agencies in the state of Victoria. We have taken it seriously with the government," noted Mr Ravi.

Apart from asking the Australian government to ensure the safety of Indian students, the Indian authorities have begun their own investigations.

Mr Ravi said the number of Indian students in Australia had risen from over 11,000 in 2002 to over 90,000 in 2008.

New laws call

The minister highlighted a number of issues about Indian students in Australia that concerned him.

He said that some unlicensed recruitment agencies were enticing potential emigrants to Australia by making them apply for vocational courses.

These people are assured that they can finance their education by working illegally and may eventually get a work permit or citizenship as well, he said.

A visiting Australian official who met the minister on Tuesday told him that senior representatives from Australian universities and vocational training institutes will visit India next month.

They will meet with members of the government and educational institutions to assure everyone that Australia is safe for Indian students.

The minister said a "new law" was required to "check the movement of people" leaving on student visas.

Apart from writing to state chief ministers to crack down on unlicensed agencies that send students abroad, Mr Ravi said a mechanism would be put into place so that the government knows details of students leaving India and names of institutes or universities they go to.

"We have no idea what they go to study and where they study. I am trying to collect information. I will be happy if students go abroad for higher education. But many students in Australia are not studying medicine or engineering. They have gone for vocational training," the minister said.

The attacks on Indian students has attracted prominent media coverage in India - prompting the Indian government to convey its concern in high-level meetings with Australian officials.

An Indian minister cancelled a planned trip to Australia and one of the country's leading film stars, Amitabh Bachchan turned down an honorary degree from Queensland University of Technology, saying he could not accept it under the current circumstances.

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