BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
With Aug. 15 marking India’s 71st anniversary of it’s independence day, the Queens Tribune decided to take a look at how the Indian American community has contributed not only to Queens but to the United States, whether it be in technology, medicine, business or politics.
Currently Indians make up over 5.2 million people in the United States, with over two million being foreign born. Because of the rapid growth of Indians migrating to America, demographically Indians represent the largest source of new immigrants in the country.
According to the Pew Research Center, Indian Americans are among the most-highly-educated racial or ethnic groups in the United States, with 70 percent of Indian Americans 25 and older having college degrees in 2010. This is the highest rate among the six Asian-American groups studied and 2.5 times the rate among the overall U.S. population.
“When we come to the country it’s because we are interested in getting our education, or in many cases, some want to make use of their degrees and start their career,” said Dr. Uma Mysorekar, president of the Hindu Temple Society of North America – the first Hindu temple in the United States and the largest in New York. “Those that came for their education plan to go back to India at some point, but once we establish ourselves and find a good profession, we can’t pass up the opportunity.”
Dr. Mysorekar said that for the last decade or so, she has seen the younger generations of Indian Americans pursuing education in technology, whereas in the late ’60s there was a huge increase in Indian physicians, which continues to this day.
“They came on J-1 Visas [visas that offer cultural and educational exchange opportunities in the United States] on expositions,” said Dr. Mysorekar. “And to this day, they continue to make a significant contribution to this country.”
Today, Indians and Indian Americans represent one in every 20 practicing physicians in the United States, making up the largest non-Caucasian segment of the American medical community. Not only do Indian Americans already play a huge role in the professional medical field, but approximately 12,000 more Indian and Indian Americans are medical students and residents working in teaching hospitals across the country.
Indians and Indian Americans, also known as “the other one percent,” are also the wealthiest immigrants in the country. According to The Economist, over a quarter of the Indian-born workforce is employed in the technology industry. In fact, Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, was born in Hyderabad and Sundar Pichai, who currently runs Google, hails from Tamil Nadu.
In addition to their economic contribution to the United States, Indians and Indian Americans have in recent years assumed leadership roles.
Dr. Mysorekar said she is proud of the Indian Americans who have had the courage to pursue politics and who strive to become leaders.
She hopes that in the next 10 years, even more will step up to help make our political representation match our country’s population and cultures.
In recent years, Indian American women also dove into the political field, with Kamala Harris, 51, winning the United States Senate seat for California and Pramila Jayapal, 51, winning the congressional seat from Seattle.
Dr. Neeta Jain, who was sworn in earlier this year as the Democratic district leader for Assembly District 25 – Part B, which encompasses the areas of Flushing, Kew Garden Hills, Hillcrest and Hillside Avenue, told the Queens Tribune that since being sworn in she has been advocating for gender equality.
“I want to bring more females into politics,” said Dr. Jain. “I even want to motivate the families that are less educated in thinking that girls are not equal to boys.”
Dr. Jain said in the past, and still in some families within the South Asian community, families feel that its women should graduate from college, get married and settle down with a family.
“I want to tell them that the girls are no different than the boys,” said Dr. Jain. “They should be able to pursue their dreams and work in the same fields as men. We need more of that.”
The value placed on Indian American woman has become so prominent that organizations such as Sakhi – an organization for South Asian Women to combat violence against women – were created to educate women on their rights and their ability to pursue their dreams.
“We have a movement of people who are invested in Sakhi and are fighting for and advocating for gender equality and justice,” said Kavita Mehra, the executive director of Sakhi. “Everyone is mission driven and to me that is incredibly profound. Sakhi believes in a world where there shouldn’t be gender-based inequality and we work towards fighting for that vision every single day.”
With the U.S. population having increased from 9.2 percent to 14.5 percent from 1990 to 2014, the Indian population is expected to double by 2030, according to Devesh Kapur, a political science professor at the University of Pennsylvania.
“We will continue to come to this country for as long as this country allows us to,” said Dr. Mysorekar.
Whether it be pursuing careers in the medical field or in the political realm, or serving as business owners of Indian boutiques, spice stores and carts, like all other Americans, Indians have contributed and continue to contribute to the rich tapestry of the country today.
Reach Ariel Hernandez at (718) 357-7400 x144 or firstname.lastname@example.org