Being the 97th most stressful city out of 100, Delhi no longer seems to be the residence of choice for students and young professionals
Priyal, a 24-year-old living in the National Capital Region (NCR) of Gurgaon, started planning to leave for Canada in 2019. The pandemic halted her plans last year, but an inadequate healthcare system to take on a raging virus, matters of safety, and even the political environment in the country – together have cemented her decision to make the move.
One of the most recent incidents which have hastened her plans to move is also one which left her concerned for her safety. What was to be a walk in the park very close to her home left her traumatised, she says. It was around 8 in the evening, she noticed a man, who had until then been sitting in a corner, come up from behind her, “He brushed his hands around my leg”, Priyal says she immediately rebuked him and called friends.
“I had bad dreams about it for days and I stopped going to the park. And this has happened with a lot of friends. Because of Covid public places have been deserted. I know things like this can happen in any city, but it won’t be as systemic. I thought I’m so done with this (place) I just want to go.”
Due to start her MBA studies in August this year in Canada, she thinks about the long-term consequences of her decision. “If at all I have kids, I wouldn’t want them to grow up here. Safety is a big issue here, and then the quality of life, and even the quality of air.”
Priyal is just one of several individuals leaving the country for better prospects, which is not out of the ordinary. But as many news reports have stated, the Covid situation has made more people wanting to leave.
It has been, so to speak, a nail in the coffin. A coffin, which surveys like the one conducted by a German company Vaay show, has built up. In its data study looking at least stressful to most stressful cities out of 100, it places Delhi on 97th position and Mumbai on 100 of most stressful cities in the world. Its 15 parameters covered issues of governance, finance and health, including safety and security of residents, gender and minority equality, socio-political stability, pollution levels, amongst others.
While the pandemic saw many Indians return, it also delayed peoples plans to leave. According to the data provided by the Ministry of External Affairs on 24 March, to a question in the Lok Sabha this year, a total of 2.61 lakh (2,61,406) students went abroad in 2020. The data by the Bureau of Immigration shows the sharp decline from 2019’s 5.8 lakh (5,88,931).
In fact, its state-wise data shows the second highest number of Indians repatriated as on 22 March of this year were from Delhi at over 10 lakh (10,96,125). This was beaten by Kerala which saw 11 lakh (11,68,796) return.
But students are beginning to leave again. State-wise data on student’s migration show Delhi had 4,963 who had left until February of this year. In 2020, it was 18,482 and a year before that in 2019 it was 40,934 students who had gone abroad. While state-wise data for those who have left for employment is available, it does not give a year-wise data. What data we do have is that from 1 January, 2016 to 18 March, 2021 there were over 2 lakh (2,09,110) who left from Delhi.
For Priyal, the decision to leave India started with figuring out the over competitiveness of Indian colleges. Priyal says that while over time other factors cropped up, it was first the fact that Common Admission Test (CAT) exams were almost impossible to crack. The exams are taken every year by lakhs of candidates for about 5,500 seats offered by IIMs. Apart from IIMs, CAT score is accepted by numerous other B-schools such as FMS Delhi, IMT, IMI XIMB and others.
The desire for many to get through to these colleges can be seen in the fact that even during a pandemic, CAT 2020 saw 1.90 lakh candidates appear for the exam.
She is happy with her decision, appreciating even how her college has shown concern at every step for its students. “At every point we have had seminars to update us on our situation. The government is concerned, it’s so holistic, but here (in India) I don’t think it’s like that. People have been left on a whim during the pandemic.”
Shubham Bhatia, another individual aspiring to go abroad and get his masters in Public Relations says things changed last year. “A whole different perspective was introduced about the opportunities available to move out of this country. To make a better life for myself and for my family.”
From the Covid scenario in the country – how hospitals failed in the Capital city to provide hospital beds and even oxygen supply – to the fact that rights are disregarded many times here, he decided this was the correct step. “Of course, we see abuse of rights in other cities as well, not just in India. We can see this even in America, but the point is there are repercussions for those actions, unlike here”.
Speaking of health matters, a report in the Indian Express noted that of the 303,720 death toll in India, nearly half of them, close to 1.5 lakh deaths, happened during the second wave this year. An overwhelming number of these, more than 1.4 lakh deaths, have been reported in the seven weeks after March.
Khushboo who has left for Canada in April of this year says, the experience till now has been heartening. As we spoke about the list which made Delhi one of the most stressful cities, the former Delhi resident agrees on all of the points raised. One of the comparisons she cites is of her journey to college. “Every day I would have to travel for a couple of hours, and change 2-3 buses. At the same time, Metros were always jam packed. Here, I am taking a bus, it’s all so smooth.”
“Yes, there is stress here as well, but completely different from how it is in India or in Delhi. Even with safety, I can walk outside at 3 am and I’ll be okay. I’ll be wearing shorts and no one will be glaring at me, but back in Delhi you would always feel unsafe.”
For women especially, leaving the city to feel safer is a relatable thought. The National Crime Records Bureau shows Delhi is ranked first among 19 metropolitan cities in India in recording the highest number of crimes against women.
For those wanting to leave, the stressful city list has a unanimous backing.