Student attacked in Australia, India says situation improving (Second Lead)

June 23rd, 2009 - 6:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Melbourne/New Delhi, June 23 (IANS) The situation of Indian students in Australia was improving, Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi said Tuesday after meeting a senior Australian official in New Delhi as news came in of another Indian being attacked in Melbourne.
“Police is taking action one after another and things are under control; maybe there are stray incidents here and there,” Ravi told reporters in New Delhi after his meeting with Lisa Paul, secretary in Australia’s department of education, employment and workplace relations.

He added that the Indian High Commission had been in constant touch with the Australian government to monitor the steps taken for the safety of Indian students.

“Things are improving, that is our impression,” said Ravi as another student gave his account of being beaten up for no apparent reason in Melbourne.

Mir Raza Ali Khan, a student from Hyderabad, was punched in the face while coming out of a hair salon in Melbourne Monday.

Khan, who was hospitalised after the attack, says it was a racist attack because his money was left untouched.

“I was attacked after I walked out of a salon. Two men came and punched me in the face. It was racist attack because they did not take any money. Police came in after 10 minutes,” Khan was quoted as saying by the website of the CNN-IBN news channel.

It was the 16th such attack on Indians in Australia since May 9.

Lisa Paul told mediapersons in New Delhi that Australia “absolutely condemned the appalling attacks that have taken place on some Indian students”.

“Today (Tuesday), I have outlined to the minister some of the concrete, positive and urgent steps that Australia has been taking so that all these attacks cease and Indian students are supported well during the duration of their studies.”

She said “criminal elements” were mainly behind these attacks.

“Efforts in increasing the police capacity in these vulnerable areas, particularly in Melbourne, are just starting to settle in. So, we will see over time a drop in these incidents, but we are monitoring the situation in Australia on more than a daily basis,” said Paul.

Responding to a question on whether there was any hint of racism behind the attacks, she said Australia had a “zero tolerance policy on racism”.

“We absolutely condemn anything that disturbs the harmony that we value in society.”

Stating that this was the “most important thing” she was dealing with, Paul said Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard had last week called a meeting of provincial education ministers.

“We met with a delegation of students and committed to urgent action on a wide range of areas, including a 24 hour hotline to significantly increase the amount of information that students receive about Australia,” she said.

In the meeting between Ravi and the Australian official, the issue of ensuring that students working part-time got the minimum wage as per law was also raised.

Nearly 90,000 Indian students are studying in various Australian education institutions.

A series of attacks and robberies on Indian students had been highlighted prominently in the Indian media, which had led to statements of assurance on safety from the highest level of the Australian government.

This month, India released guidelines for Indian students to ensure that they had a safe stay.

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