Evacuation of Indians from Ukraine

Indian Government’s primary focus in this crisis time has been the evacuation of its 18,000 Indian students stranded in the war zone. While the government has deployed Air India and Indigo flights, Indian airforce, union ministers, multiple embassies, etc the same was more reactionary to the rising criticism rather than a proactive plan. Yes, the Government issued various advisories to the students, however, these were mere notices and press releases. If the Union Ministers and Chief Ministers, can spare time to welcome the students at the airport, with bouquets and greetings, and warm inflight “welcome home” speeches, they could have done a lot more using the intelligence services and contacts in embassies, to save the trouble altogether. Blaming students for not taking the early flights when the prices were sky-rocketing, or for thinking about their classes, and permissions from university and their career, especially after the pandemic. The Government could have subsidised or regulated those flight prices (which it eventually offered for free) and issued clear strict orders of evacuation.

Indian map

That being said, India is amongst the few nations that have historically carried out such evacuations successfully and it was no different this time, as well. Besides, nobody expected the situation to escalate so quickly. The fact that the government had to issue ultimatums to leave the cities of Kyiv and Kharkiv “immediately by any means possible” when Russia aggressively bombarded these cities, explains the challenges that the Government is facing. However, it’s a little absurd to expect 18-25-year-old students to understand the gravity of the situation when even the well-equipped Government could not predict the unfolding of events. At the end of the day, everything will be forgotten and buried once the government completes the evacuations and news cycle changes. However, the racism at the border, the visuals of bombs and tanks, and the feared the uncertainty of life that the students and their parents faced would remain with them forever – something that only they can relate to.

Why do so many Indian students study in Ukraine?

The whole evacuation process led to the questioning ‘why do so many Indian students study in Ukraine?’ There are diverging stories here. According to some Government officials, 90% of Indian students don’t qualify in Indian examinations and hence study abroad. However, the statistics depict a completely different picture. India has only 83,275 seats for MBBS students whereas the number of applicants is 15.9 lakhs, thus, statistically, only 5 seats are available for every 100 applicants. Then, there are reservations based on religion and economic status, and the high cost of education in the top universities even when the facilities provided are not adequate. The aspirants have no choice but to opt for Ukraine where firstly there are no entrance exams as a large number of seats are available and then the cost of education compared to the quality of education is also lower.

While the Government has managed to rescue the students from the war zone, there are more challenges that the students have to face. Firstly, Ukraine won’t be able to restart its educational universities for a long time, owing to the massive destruction. Next, it’s doubtful that the education fees would be recoverable. It’s scarier if the students had taken an education loan to pay the fees. There’s absolutely no remote possibility that Indian Universities can absorb these students as already there’s a war out there for seats (figuratively). Thus, these students might be forced to lose an educational year, if no other option is available, at their behest.

World map

The number of students studying in Ukraine is merely a small percentage of the total students studying abroad. There are about 11,33,749 students who are studying in foreign countries with the majority of them studying in the United States, Canada Australia and Saudi Arabia, while 18,000 students in Ukraine, as per official Government data (July 2021).