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Why should students suffer for your fault?

   By Vijay Darda | 07-03-2022

Lakhs of Indian students go abroad every year for medical studies, not research

Vijay Darda

Our government deserves a pat on the back for launching Operation Ganga. India is the only country that has evacuated most of its citizens from Ukraine, which has turned into a war zone. Anyway, India’s track record in evacuating its citizens in distress abroad has always been outstanding. Sadly, one of our innocent medical students was killed in this Russia-Ukraine war. Unimaginable indeed were the hardships faced by the helpless students who have now returned home. This much trouble could have been avoided had the students left as soon as the advisory was issued by the government.

It may be recalled that last week I had written that even though the war between Ukraine and Russia is being fought 5,000 kms away, India is one of the countries badly affected by it. A frightening instance of this impact has emerged in the form of hardships faced by the Indian students who want to return to their motherland. This is quite a sensitive and complex issue and has triggered a volley of questions.

One can understand if the students go abroad to receive a very high level of education or research-oriented education, but why do our children go abroad for medical or other normal studies? The second question is, why did the Indian students choose to stay there when it was clear that Russia would attack Ukraine any time? This is quite puzzling particularly when the Government of India had already issued an advisory to the students to leave Ukraine as soon as possible. The third question is, did the government delay the evacuation of the students?

Like the Indian government, most countries had advised their citizens to leave Ukraine immediately. Citizens of other countries or students studying there left as soon as the advisory was issued. But our students stayed put ignoring the advisory. Why did the Indian embassy not swing into action promptly? This question needs an answer. Will only the Prime Minister of the country have to do everything? After all, he is a human being too! The system should do the work, but in this case our system is faulty. We have to think why the system does not get galvanised unless ministers are delegated some task, or the embassy is activated and the issue is raised by the media? I have closely observed this flaw in the system. I had accompanied the then Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao on a tour to the US. There the camera of the camera crew got damaged. The crew urgently needed a camera but much time was wasted in discussing whether to rent a camera or not and in the meanwhile, the crew missed an event! I was surprised and wrote on the subject after returning from New York. Of course there was a delay in the evacuation of the students from Ukraine. Shortly after Air India’s first plane flew from Ukraine to India, Russia invaded Ukraine. Airspace was closed and the second plane could not reach Ukraine. Thereafter, the students were asked to reach the borders of other countries. How difficult and frightening it must have been for the students to step out in a war-torn country is beyond imagination. Had the Operation Ganga been started four-five days earlier, the situation would not have been as frightening. As a matter of fact, we should be thankful to the countries bordering Ukraine and especially Poland which allowed our students to enter its border without visa so that they can return to India. Here I would especially like to mention the promptness of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in ensuring safe passage for the students to their homeland. After speaking to the students who returned home safely, he gave the message that he monitors even the smallest detail.

Now the million dollar question is why our students are forced to go abroad for normal studies? It is surprising that more than 23,000 of our students are studying in China alone. Most Indian students go to countries like Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Armenia and Poland for medical studies since the fees there are pocket-friendly for the middle class families. The total cost of medical education there is in the range of Rs 25-30 lakh. If they want to study in India, first of all they have to go through the rigmarole of the tough competitive test like NEET for admission in the medical college because we have less than 550 medical colleges and the number of total seats available is only around 85,000. And if you succeed in the competitive entrance exam but do not get a seat in a government medical college, there is no option but to study in a private medical college, and studying in a private medical college is not everyone’s cup of tea. It costs crores of rupees. This is the reason why lakhs of students from towns and villages of India go abroad every year for medical studies. More than 11 lakh students study abroad at any given point of time. It goes without saying that this way our country is losing millions of dollars to these foreign medical colleges every year. You will be surprised to know that more than 2.12 lakh students are studying in the US and 2.16 lakh Indian students are studying in Canada. The number of our students studying abroad is more than 11.5 lakh.

If the government makes up its mind to make suitable and affordable education for its students available in the country itself, why would our students go abroad? But unfortunately, we spend only a little more than 3 per cent of our GDP on higher education. There is not a single educational institution in India among the top 200 educational institutions of the world. Is our government even thinking about it? I would like to remind here that the IT sector of India is making a splash in the world at the moment, but it is not because of the government. The private sector has contributed immensely in this area. If investment has flowed into the country under Make in India, it has come because of the people. Of course, it is the government that creates the conducive atmosphere. Now another question relates to the future of over 18,000 students returning from Ukraine? There is a demand that they should be admitted in India but where are the seats? There have definitely been orders for internships, but what about those who have not completed their studies? Here I would like to say that the government should allow opening of more and more medical colleges, give land at a cheaper rate, link it with CSR and give ample grants. Mark my words, there will be no shortage of doctors in our country if the fees are controlled and medical courses ranging from two to five years are designed. If such a facility is available, the students will study in their own country. We don’t have to spend millions of dollars abroad. If there are more doctors, there will be competition. Then no doctor will refuse to go to the village! He will have to go to the village. Then there will be hospitals in rural areas too. Modern facilities for treatment will come up there which will benefit the rural population.

It is high time the government gives a serious thought about it!

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