Sunday, June 7, 2009

Don't treat us as 'cash cow', say Indian rallyists

MELBOURNE: Appealing to the Australian government to stop treating them like `cash cow', about 2,000 Indian students and community members gathered at the Sydney Town Hall Sunday morning to voice their concern over growing violence and inequality towards them.

The Federation of Indian Students in Australia, which had until two days ago said it would not extend support to the rally, changed its position and assumed leadership of the small groups of students from various universities in Sydney.

``A lot of SMSes had been sent to the students about the rally and it had become difficult to cancel it,'' said Sumit Purdani, the federation'srepresentative in Sydney.

He said initially there were between 1,000 and 1,500 people at the Town Hall and the police blocked the main George Street. ``As the numbers kept swelling we decided in consultation with the police to move the venue to sprawling Hyde Park nearby,'' Purdani said. As a result, hundreds of students who arrived late were left stranded at the Town Hall.

Asked what they had achieved since action has already been taken by the state and federal governments, Purdani said the aim was to garner public support and make the people aware of the plight of Indian students. The rally was peaceful, he added.

At the rally, National Union of Students president David Barrow said the government policy towards foreign students was ``discriminatory''. ``For too long, the education sector and the government have treated international students like cash cow, not like human beings,' Barrow said.

He said overseas university student fees were rising, landlords and employers were taking advantage and they can't survive under visas limits of a maximum of 20 hours of work a week. ``It is not acceptable to have 10 or 15 students crammed into an apartment being charged $150 a week (each),'' Barrow said.

The students also called for Australia's education and immigration policy to be overhauled so overseas students are protected from dodgy landlords and employers and receive the same benefits as domestic students.

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