When the Ukraine-Russian war began, the country was praying for the safe return of thousands of Indian medical students studying in Ukraine. Many of them living in cities such as Kharkiv were stranded inside bunkers. Through a mammoth rescue mission Operation Ganga the Indian government brought these students back home. Hundred days after the war broke out, now these medical students are eagerly looking toward the central government, its health and education ministry and the National Medical Commission (NMC). They say: resolve the uncertainty looming over our careers.
In the past three months, several state governments, including Telangana, Odisha, West Bengal and Jharkhand have written letters to the central government, urging it to formulate a policy that can ensure the continuation of studies of Ukraine returnee medical students. The NMC had allowed Ukraine medical graduates to complete their 12-month internship in India.
As per the NMC rules, the foreign medical graduates are required to complete their 12-month internship at the institutes from which they graduated and then only they become eligible for the Foreign Medical Graduates Examination (FMGE). The NMC made an exception for the medical students rescued from Ukraine on humanitarian grounds.
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However, those students — whose studies are still going on continue to stay in the lurch. The Parents’ Association of the Ukraine MBBS students has been holding communications with the health ministry, education ministry, and the NMC in order to resolve the crisis.
As per the parents’ association data, nearly 18,000 medical students were rescued from Ukraine, of which nearly 3,000 are final-year students who would get their degrees in October 2022. Nearly 2,000 of these students are seeking direct transfer permission to other European nations and don’t wish to get absorbed at the Indian medical schools.
The parents’ association has been proposing that there are nearly 595 medical schools in India government and private medical schools—and if four to five Ukraine returnee students are accommodated per batch per college, then the crisis can be resolved.
Brought home safely, their future still remains in the lurch.
Nimeesha Lumba, a first-year medical student, who had returned from Ukraine safely three months ago, is now worried about her future.
“As much as we try to cope with our studies in the online mode and as much as teachers are trying to teach us, conduct lectures and tests, somewhere or the other, it is hindering our true learning potentials. Online education is not engaging and beneficial in the field of medicine,” Nimeesha told India Today.
She further urged the central government to resolve the uncertainty looming over the medical students who were rescued from war-torn Ukraine.
“Either the central government should absorb Indian medical students who had returned from Ukraine at the Indian medical schools or formulate a smooth transfer policy for other European countries. This should be done as quickly as possible. Because as time goes by, the darker and uncertain our future looks,” the 18-year-old medical student added.
Ankur Gupta, a fourth-year student of Kharkiv National Medical University, was stranded for days inside a bunker in Kharkiv. The 21-year-old Indian student, Naveen SG who was killed in Kharkiv during the Russia-Ukraine war’s initial days, was his batchmate. Back at his home in Delhi, Gupta’s father, mother, and elder sister were worried for his safety.
He, along with his friends and juniors, travelled hundreds of kilometres to find a safe passage. And was eventually rescued and brought back home safely under Operation Ganga.
“I used to live in Kharkiv, I am not sure whether I will be able to return to that city. Our agents keep on assuring us the situation will improve by next month. But the war is not over yet. And the uncertainty over our career is still looming over,” Gupta said. He urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ask the National Medical Commission to swing into action as their policy is going to impact thousands of medical students who were rescued from the war-torn nation.
“Our online classes are going and the university has been in constant touch with us. But the future looks very uncertain. It’s not just me, even my batch mates and friends are uncertain about their future.”
“We don’t want to snatch the seats at the government medical schools in India. What we are pleading to the NMC is that they should allow fourth, fifth, and sixth-year students to practice in India. The central government should approve a policy for the medical students (who were rescued from Ukraine), especially those in the fourth and fifth year.”
RB Gupta, the president of the parents’ association of Ukraine returnee medical students, said more than 10,000 medical students are reeling under stress as they wish to remain eligible to practice medicine in India.
“Online classes can never be a replacement for offline classes in medical studies. The majority of the students belong to middle-class families. At Indian private medical schools, the fee structure touches Rs one crore, but in Ukraine, the cost comes down to nearly Rs 35-40 lakhs. Hence, middle-class students choose Ukraine as a preferred destination for medical students. But this war has changed everything. Even three months after the war, their careers are hanging in limbo,” RB Gupta said. He added the affected students belong to several states of India, including Manipur, Gujarat, UP, West Bengal, and Tamil Nadu.
The parents’ association claims that they have support for Ukraine returnee students from 18 states and that their efforts had set the ball rolling when it comes to policy formation.
“The Centre was under the impression that the majority of medical students don’t wish to study in India. They were planning to arrange easy transfer options in countries such as Poland, and Romania. We have approached the education and health ministry along with the NMC. We have proposed that the policy should be formulated for both students who want absorption at the Indian medical schools and those who want transfer permissions at foreign universities,” RB Gupta said. He added that while there is hope that the NMC or health ministry might issue some policy in a couple of weeks, they are yet to receive any written assurance from the Centre.