Why thousands of Indian students studying in Ukraine?
India needs to open its eyes and strive to improve its academic standards to retain the country’s youth and prevent brain drain
The situation of war between Russia-Ukraine remains unceasing. It's feared that Russia may attack Ukraine at any moment. Due to this troublesome situation, a mounting challenge has also arisen in front of India. Thousands of Indian students pursue medical, dental, nursing, and other professional courses in Ukraine. In light of a possible war between Russia and Ukraine, they want to leave and return home safely. The question is how many flights will have to be sent to bring such a large sum of Indian youths studying in Kyiv and other cities of Ukraine? This is being discussed by the government at the top level and preparations for the journey are being undertaken.
Undoubtedly, this work needs to be done on a priority basis. Now that Air India is not owned by the Government of India, it remains to be seen how far the government's talks with the new owner of Air India, i.e. Tata Group, have reached to bring the stranded Indians home from Ukraine. In such a situation, when Russia has deployed 1.25 million fully-equipped soldiers on the border for the war with Ukraine, will the Government of India take the services of airlines other than Air India for this vital mission?
If we start from the year 2014 itself, then India has utilized all available resources to bring back Indians trapped in other countries safely. During the Afghanistan crisis, thousands of our citizens were brought back safely. Indian Air Force and Air India aircraft continued to bring Indians home from Afghanistan. They were brought to Delhi or other parts of the country via Tajikistan and Qatar. Before this, five Indians, who had been in jail in Togo since 2013, were safely released and brought home. Similarly, in 2015, the Government of India, taking prompt action, brought thousands of Indians stranded in Yemen to their homeland safely. They were taken to Djibouti from the Indian Navy warship INS Sumitra. These people were brought back to India by four planes from Djibouti. These are all examples of recent times which prove that India is capable of bringing back its citizens stranded in other countries. The Government of India is not ready to show its complacency like the previous governments in such situations. Meanwhile, the central and State governments have to urgently consider why such a large number of Indian students go to Ukraine. Every year the Government of India has to spend billions of rupees in foreign exchange due to their going there or to other countries to study. After all, when will we be able to open a sufficient number of colleges in our country which provide high standard degrees of medical, engineering and other courses.
One must also think long and hard about the level of education in India and why is it so that every year lakhs of students go abroad for quality education? Why are we not able to provide good faculty and other facilities in our educational institutions? Before proceeding, we must take a look at some statistics. During 2018-19 from India, 6.20 lakh students went outside India to study. These figures have been published by the Ministry of Human Resource Development. In 2017-18, 7.86 lakh students went outside the country. Most of them go to other countries only to get a Bachelor's degree. That results in a massive outflow of foreign exchange.
It is understandable if Indian students enrol in universities like Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) or Colorado in the US for specific research etc. Everyone knows that some of America's universities have established themselves as the best educational institutions in the world due to their excellent faculty and other facilities. The same can be said about universities like Oxford and Cambridge in Britain.
In some institutions, even Nobel laureates teach. Thus there is no harm in enrolling in them. Our premier educational institutions like IIT and Delhi University also attract many foreign students. Many students come to Delhi University from African countries like Kenya, Sudan, Congo, Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad, Suriname, Fiji, etc. The President of the African nation of Malawi, Bingu wa Mutharika, was a student of Shri Ram College of Commerce and Delhi School of Economics of Delhi University. The 36th Prime Minister of Nepal, Baburam Bhattarai, studied at the Capital's School of Architecture and Planning (SPA). The students studying here have contributed immensely to the construction of skyscrapers, highways, flyovers, bridges, etc., in the country. It was established in 1959. These places also witness a flock of students from Iran, Singapore, Malaysia, African countries.
There is no problem if foreigners come to India's best Delhi universities and our youth go to world-class institutions. But, if Indian youth start moving abroad for courses like hotel management, MBA, or general Bachelor's degree, then it will be considered a serious matter. It should be known that we will be able to stop the youth from going out of India to study only when we have excellent educational institutions here.
The Russia-Ukraine crisis is giving us an opportunity to learn a lot. Surely we will be able to get our citizens out of Ukraine. Our present government has that capability and might. But, we will have to arrange the best education in our own country so that our youth can get admission to good colleges and universities. We have to connect our meritorious youth to the field of education. They also need to be inspired to become teachers and help to provide better facilities. Apart from this, adequate emphasis will also have to be given to research-related work. India needs to open its eyes and strive to improve its academic standards to retain the country's youth and prevent brain drain.
(The writer is a senior editor, columnist, and former MP)