Ukraine returned Indian students say semester to begin, govt unresponsive

Government has slammed the door on us, Ukraine returned Indian students

With the new semester about to begin, Ukraine returned Indian students told The Probe’s Bhaswati Sengupta & Ashutosh Dixit that the Indian government has stopped responding to them
First Published: Aug 30,2022 11:28PM
by Bhaswati Sengupta & Ashutosh Dixit
Ukraine returned Indian students


Ukraine returned Indian students

Dimpu Satya Aahlada Addala is a second-year MBBS student from the Zaporizhzhia State Medical University in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine. As the Russia-Ukraine war raged on, Dimpu was one of the many students evacuated from the war-torn nation and safely brought back to India under the government’s “Operation Ganga” evacuation plan. During this process, the union government had also assured the students that not just their safety but their educational interests would also be prioritised, and necessary assistance would be provided to the students so that their education in India would progress unhindered. 

The Probe’s Ashutosh Dixit in conversation with Ukraine returned Indian MBBS student, Dimpu Satya Aahlada Addala from Zaporizhzhia State Medical University 

Six months have passed since Dimpu’s return, and her new semester is all set to begin in September, but she has still not heard from the university’s dean in Ukraine or the government of India. “The problem is that we can neither go to Ukraine nor continue our studies here in India. We don’t have access to the correct information to make the right decision. The semester of all colleges will start in September. The government first told us to wait till July. Then they asked us to wait till August. Now our new semesters are going to begin, and if things go on like this, the admissions will get closed, and we will not have other options other than going back to Ukraine, which most of our parents don’t prefer.”

The Probe spoke to many Ukraine returned Indian students. Almost all students had similar concerns. Sowmya Perevemula, an MBBS student from the Bukovinian State Medical University (BSMU) in Chernivtsi, Ukraine, was one of the first batch of students to return from Ukraine. She returned on February 27, just a week after the war had started. Sowmya says she, too, is clueless about her future, just like many of her peers. 

“On July 14, my semester got completed. My new semester is about to begin this week, and I don’t know what to do. Many of our parents have been protesting and demanding the Indian government to help us get accommodated in some private colleges in India so that we can somehow complete our education. But so far, no help has been forthcoming.” 

Indian students after their return from war-torn Ukraine under the government’s “Operation Ganga” evacuation plan | Photo courtesy: Special arrangement

With the new academic year starting in September, almost all medical students have been facing difficulties in getting their university documents from their respective colleges in Ukraine. The students have been protesting in various parts of the country, demanding the government to accommodate them in Indian institutions. In March this year, the Ukraine-returned Indian students filed a writ petition before the Supreme Court seeking a directive from the court to pass orders asking the Indian government to accommodate them in Indian medical institutions. The apex court has sought a response from the Centre on the students’ petition. 

“We students have approached the country’s highest court with a request from the court to pass a directive to the government to accommodate us here or at least allow us to gain practical knowledge in India. What do we do? The government in India is not responding to us, and our dean at Poltava State Medical University is also not responding to our emails and messages. We spoke to our teachers in Ukraine, and they said that the next semester would commence on September 1 2022, and they advised us to take online classes. However, the problem is, we are told that if we take online classes, then we will not be eligible to practise in India,” rues Farheem Akhram, a second-year MBBS student from Poltava State Medical University, which is one of the oldest institutions for higher education in Ukraine.

Last month, the Centre informed the Parliament that the National Medical Commission (NMC) had denied permission to accommodate foreign medical students in Indian medical institutes and universities. The Minister of State for health cited the lack of provisions in the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 and the National Medical Commission Act, 2019, as a reason for the decision. The National Medical Commission is a body that regulates medical education and medical professions in India. The students say that the latest circular by the NMC has only added to more confusion. 

“There is too much confusion now. We are waiting for the NMC to come out with a decision, and our contractors are also telling us to wait for the commission’s decision. In Ukraine, we have a six-year medical course, while in other countries, it is just five years. So, after a six-year course, if we have to undergo another two years of internship, as per the rules of the NMC, you can imagine how many years we will lose. And our counterparts in India will keep progressing in their careers in a short span, and we will lag behind,” says Sheikh Saeed Ahmed, a fifth-year Zaporizhzhia State Medical University student. 

Ahmed adds that he and his family are traumatised over his educational status. “Every day, my father keeps asking me if there is any information from the central government, our university in Ukraine, or our contractors, and I simply keep telling them that there is no information. My family is also stressed. On June 15, we had our last exam. That was the last time I had contact with my university.” 

Ukraine returned Indian students protest outside the residence of Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare | Photo courtesy: @kaushalparikh3 | Twitter

Suryavamshi Supriya, a sixth-year student from Chernivtsi, says the concerned authorities within the government have stopped responding to the calls and mails of the distressed students. “We tried to call them multiple times, but all our calls are being declined or are going unanswered. As a sixth-year student, I can’t go to Ukraine and won’t be permitted to study here in India. I can’t even do an internship in India. Even for internship opportunities, everyone asks for a degree certificate. How can we provide a degree certificate?”

Despite all this, some students told The Probe about the resilience and commitment of a few teachers in Ukraine who started online classes for Indian students while the war was raging in their country. “We returned to India during the month of April, and we continued our first semester through online classes. During classes, sometimes the teachers would run to bunkers. They faced many difficulties, but still, they considered it their duty to teach us,” says Sarvasiddhi Durga Sai, a first-year student from Zaporizhzhya State Medical University.

Divya Pingili from the Bukovinian State Medical University reminisces about a few good teachers from her university in Ukraine who continued teaching Indian students amid the war. “I still remember, during the online classes, when the teachers heard air alarms, they would rush to the bunkers. But they would immediately get back to teaching us in no time. Our online study in our university went uninterrupted because of these teachers who were teaching us during wartime, but it is unfortunate that our government is not bothered about our future back home in our own country.”

Many students also spoke about how their peers in Ukraine universities from other countries have been admitted by the governments in their home countries into state-run educational institutions. The Nigerian government recently encouraged the Ukraine returnees to visit the education ministry’s official website to apply for further education of the students in any university in the country. 

“Our Nigerian friends had told us that their government is allotting them seats in their home country. The government there is taking responsibility for its citizens. But why is the Indian government not doing it? If Nigeria can do it, can’t our government do something for us?” asks Budhanapa Arun Kumar, a second-year student from Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine.

We also spoke to several distressed parents who say that they feel cheated by the false promises of the Indian government. Dimpu’s father, Mahesh Kumar Addala, says that six months have passed since the assurances, but there has still not been any headway. 

“After six months, when we expected a solution, one of the ministers told the Parliament that the government cannot permit Ukraine returned students to study in India. This contradicts the assurances given by the Prime Minister. My family has been facing mental trauma since February when the war broke out. My daughter’s career is in peril.” 

With the new semesters all set to begin from the first week of September, all students and their parents are now pinning their hopes on the Supreme Court, which has issued notices to the Centre and the National Medical Commission. 

“We have waited for so long, and we will wait for some more time. We don’t have any other option,” says a distraught Dimpu, who bides most of her time talking to her fellow classmates from Ukraine about their collective misery.

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