Govt falls victim to spam, gives House false figures
Exaggerated Figures Of Indian Doctors In US, Desis Working With Microsoft & Nasa Given As Answer In Parliament
Washington: It's an Internet myth that has taken on a life of its own. No matter how often you slay the phony legend, it's keeps popping up again like some hydra-headed beast.
But on Monday, the Indian government itself consecrated the oft-circulated fiction as fact in Parliament, possibly laying itself open to a breach of privilege. By relaying to Rajya Sabha members (as reported in The Times of India) a host of unsubstantiated and inflated figures such as 38 per cent of doctors in US are Indians, as are 36 per cent of Nasa scientists and 34 per cent of Microsoft employees, the government also made a laughing stock of itself.
The truth is there is no survey that establishes these numbers. The figures come from a shop-worn Internet chain mail that has been in circulation for many years. Spam has finally found its way into the Indian Parliament dressed up as fact.
Attempts by this correspondent over the years to authenticate the figures have suggested it is exaggerated, and even false. Both Microsoft and Nasa say they don't keep an ethnic headcount, but acknowledge that while the number of their employees of Indian origin is large, it is never in the 30-35 per cent range.
In a 2003 interview with this correspondent, Microsoft chief Bill Gates guessed that the number of Indians in the engineering sections of the company was perhaps in the region of 20 per cent, but he thought the overall figure was not true. Nasa workers say the number of Indians in the organization is in the region of 4-5 per cent, but the 36 per cent figure is pure fiction.
The number of physicians of Indian-origin in the US is a little easier to estimate. The Association of American Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) has 42,000 members, in addition to around 15,000 medical students and residents. There were an estimated 850,000 doctors in the US in 2004. So, conflating the figures, no more than ten per cent of the physicians in US maybe of Indian-origin and that includes Indian-Americans assuming not everyone is registered with AAPI.
These numbers in themselves are remarkable considering Indians constitute less than one per cent of the US population (and not so remarkable considering India has 18 per cent of the world population). But in its enthusiasm to spin the image of the successful global Indian to its advantage, the government appears to have milked a long-discredited spam seen by some readers as the work of a lazy bureaucrat and an inept minister.
The story has attracted withering scrutiny and criticism on the Times of India's website, with most readers across the world trashing it. ''The minister should be hauled up by the house for breach of privilege of Parliament (by presenting false information based on hearsay). We Indians are undoubtedly one of the most successful ethnic groups in USA, be it in Medicine, Engineering, Entrepreneurship. BUT, that does not translate to those ridiculous numbers that have been presented.... this is a circulating e-mail hoax,'' writes in Soumya from USA, who said he worked at the Nasa facility in Ames, California, and the number was nowhere near what was mentioned in the figures given to Parliament.
"This minister (D Purandeshwari, minister of state for HRD)... should be held accountable for misleading the members of Parliament and the citizens of India. This just shows how illiterate and mentally defunct the current Indian govt. is,'' wrote Anand from Melbourne.