Indian Medical Students Evacuated From Ukraine Stare At Uncertain Future
In March, India evacuated close to 20,000 Indian students studying medicine in Ukraine.
The Indian government evacuated close to 20,000 students from Ukraine as part of operation Ganga. More than 200 days since the war began, Indian students are upset over the lack of government assistance since then. Largely, the medical students who returned from Ukraine feel let down, especially the first year students.
Medical students who were studying in Ukraine when the war broke out look at an uncertain future ahead. Ukrainian universities are helping us in every way possible, but our Indian government let us down medical students told BOOM.
Ukrainian government introduced the Academic Mobility Program which allowed its medical students to complete their education at universities in affiliate countries. However, the final degree will be awarded by the parent university in Ukraine.
But this program is only applicable to those students who began classes before November 2021. This means most first-year students are ineligible and face very few options. 20-year-old Siddhanth Pande had high hopes from the Supreme Court hearing on this issue today. Medical students who returned from Ukraine sought accommodation in Indian medical universities.
Pande, who completed only two semesters, said he is now looking at Russia - another warzone. Pande, who hails from Orissa feels the quality of education in eastern European countries is not up to par, and medical colleges in Western Europe are very expensive. Even Georgia which emerged as a front runner in options is very expensive, Pande said.
Rishit Bharadwaj from Gaya, Bihar is also stumped. "I hope the Supreme Court comes to our rescue, the 20-year-old said. Bharadwaj hopes the government will honour the Academic Mobility Program while accommodating first-year students as well.
Two students are making their way back to Ukraine, while two others have shifted to Uzbekistan. Even as Pande and one other look at fresh admissions, there are many others who are looking for a Hail Mary from the Supreme Court.
Between a war zone and an uncertain future, BOOM spoke to medical students who returned from Ukraine and sees what lies ahead for them.
Create Portal, students can't rely on agents who are fleecing them: Supreme Court to Centre
On Friday, the Supreme Court directed the Centre to create a portal where medical students who returned from Ukraine can see which colleges in different countries is available to them.
The top court's direction to the Centre came after the Health Ministry said it was unable to accommodate Indian medical students who returned to India when the Russia-Ukraine war broke out earlier this year. The Centre said Indian medical colleges here were unable to accommodate the returning students for fear of compromising their quality of education. Even the National Medical Commission Act did not allow such a relaxation, the Centre added.
In its affidavit filed on September 15, the health ministry said medical aspirants who scored poorly in NEET or couldn't afford medical education here chose foreign universities like those in Ukraine. If students with poor NEET scores were allowed in such premier colleges then one could expect litigation from those desirous candidates who could not get seats in these colleges and had taken admission in either lesser known colleges or have been deprived of a seat in medical colleges, the Centre added.
If the case was of the latter, then the students would anyway be unable to afford the fee structure for premier institutions here, the affidavit added.
The Supreme Court was hearing a plea filed by returning students seeking accommodation in Indian medical colleges.
Also Read:Ukraine Invasion: How Indian Students Are Passing Time At Shelter Homes
Returning to the war zone because I have no other option
Even as the Supreme Court hearing was underway, several Indian medical students are already in Ukraine; while some others are en route.
Taking strength from some students who reached earlier, 27-year-old M Sai Krishna and his flatmate are also heading back. "Day before yesterday marked 200 days since the war broke out and sirens still go off. But we still want to go," 27-year-old Krishna said.
"I did my research on whether it is safe in Kyiv. Spoke to the locals and others like me who have already made it there. The HOD of our university is there as well, working at a hospital. So we will either work with him or probably join Red Cross," he told BOOM. Krishna's parents are not happy with his decision, but he said convinced them otherwise because it is for the best.
Two others Sarita Sharma* and Sapna Kapoor* have been advised to complete their studies in Uzbekistan. The second-year students will probably leave in October and November.
While Sharma is moving to Uzbekistan as part of the academic mobility program but Kapoor is not convinced. "I can't risk depending on the mobility exam and I am not sure when the war will end," Kapoor said. Kapoor, a second-year medical student is considering the Tashkent Medical Academy.
Kapoor said the move to Uzbekistan is actually going to be easy because it is affiliated with their parent university in Ukraine. Admissions will be easy and the pattern of education is similar.
Another student who did not wish to be named said she is moving to Poland. "I was a second-year undergrad student in Ukraine, and now I have to restart my medical education from scratch," she told BOOM.
While many are en route or have made alternate arrangements, 21-year-old Basundhara is lost. "I don't know what to do," she lamented minutes after the Supreme Court hearing ended on Friday. Basundhara was anticipating a lot from the hearing and was hoping for a resolution.
*Names have been changed at request to protect identity.
Government let us down, nothing for us in India
Medical students who returned from Ukraine are upset with the government's response to their problems. "We are grateful the government evacuated us from Ukraine when the war broke out, but there is nothing for us here," Krishna said.
"We are not completely eager to work in a war zone, but we don't have any other choice. We can't give up now at the end of our education," he added.
Krishna was one of the students who was evacuated from Ukraine through Operation Ganga. "I explained the situation to my parents. They weren't happy, but I convinced them that I have to go. In India there is nothing to do, the government is not supporting us and I have to complete my studies," he said.
"Our Ukrainian university is assisting us in every way, even helping us with paperwork to transfer to different European universities. But those colleges should accept us no?" Krishna added.
"How can the government say we went abroad because we scored poorly in NEET?" Basundhara said. "It is about money, not the marks," Basundhara said about her decision to study medicine in Ukraine. "I scored well in my NEET but the cost of medical education is exorbitant. I cannot afford the Rs. 1.5 crores it will cost me to study medicine here," she added.
"It is very upsetting to hear such things," Basundhara said. "We are not escaping, it is just that we don't have a choice," she told BOOM.
Krishna feels let down. Foreign universities are accepting students who studied Ukraine. Some are even offering a full scholarship, but the Indian government is not helping us at all," he said.
Basundhara said she doesn't have a clear plan. She was waiting for directions from the National Medical Commission. "This is such an extraordinary situation," the 21-year-old from Jharkhand's Hazaribag said. The Indian government should have made this one-time exception for us. It is not like war happens every day," she said.
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