PM blames previous governments for Indian students going abroad to pursue medical education; Congress hits back

Modi also empathised with those students and their families who have expressed their anger, even at him, after facing hardships in Ukraine.

Published: 03rd March 2022 09:35 PM  |   Last Updated: 03rd March 2022 09:35 PM   |  A+A-

PM Narendra Modi

PM Narendra Modi (Photo | EPS)


VARANASI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday blamed previous governments for a large number of Indian students going abroad to pursue medical education and asserted that his dispensation has been working to augment the number of medical colleges so that students can enrol themselves within the country.

In an interaction with students from different parts of Uttar Pradesh who have returned from the war-hit Ukraine, Modi also empathised with those students and their families who have expressed their anger, even at him, after facing hardships in Ukraine.

"I think it is natural for them to feel angry in this crisis," he said, adding that they have been facing hardships and braving cold.

The government has launched "Operation Ganga" to evacuate Indian citizens, mostly students, from Ukraine which has been attacked by Russia.

When they are no longer agitated and begin to understand the magnitude of the exercise, they will show their affection as well, the prime minister said, as many students expressed their thanks to him and lauded his government for rescuing them when they had lost all hope.

A strong India is the answer to these troubles, Modi said, expressing his sympathies with the students who, he added, had to go through such an experience at a young age.

"If medical education policies were right earlier, then you would not have to go abroad," he said, adding that no parents want their children to go overseas at such a young age.

His government is working to correct the past mistakes, he added.

There were 300 to 400 medical colleges earlier, and they now number nearly 700, Modi said.

The number of seats they offer has now gone up to 1.5 lakh from earlier 80,000-90,000, he said.

"My effort is that every district has one medical college. Probably, there will be more doctors produced in 10 years than the last 70 years," he said.

This will be a big thing as young students would not have to travel abroad, and their families would not have to under such stress, he added.

Speaking to the students, Modi said everyone should keep doing something for the country.

"You had to undergo such an experience in life at such a young age in a distant place alone. I can imagine the mental state you would have been through. Now we are able to evacuate people properly," he said.

The students shared their experiences with Modi, who is on a tour of the state as part of the BJP's campaign for the ongoing assembly polls.

Modi represents Varanasi constituency in Lok Sabha.

Sharing their experience, some students said they had left all hopes after Russia launched an attack on Ukraine and could not have returned without support from the government.

Some other students said they faced no difficulties and received adequate facilities from the Indian embassy there.

"After the attack began, it seemed I will not be able to return and saw death from close quarters.

I am proud of being an Indian and you as prime minister," a student said, adding that the display of Indian flag on their windows and buses ensured that Russian forces let them go without causing any problem.

Another student conveyed his family's gratitude to the prime minister, saying they believed only he can do something after he was stranded in Ukraine.

"You were being remembered only next to God," he said.

Even students of some other countries also used Indian flag to get smooth passage from the Russian army, one said.

The Congress on Thursday continued its attack on the government over bringing back safely Indian students from war-hit Ukraine with Rahul Gandhi saying evacuation is a duty and not a favour.

On Twitter, Gandhi shared a video of an Indian female student who says the government's duty is to provide them safety in Ukraine and help them safely escape from the war zone and not just bring them back when they crossed over into a safe neighbouring country.

"Evacuation is a Duty, not a Favour," Gandhi tweeted.

Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala also shared the video and attacked the government.

"This brave daughter of India has exposed "Fake PR" of Modi Government! As PM, Home Minister and Defence Minister were busy in election rallies, this was the harrowing experience of our children in Ukraine," he said.

Rahul Gandhi and party MPs - Shashi Tharoor and Anand Sharma -- also attended a meeting of the Consultative Committee on External Affairs where they said that the interest of the country is paramount for all of them and their suggestions are being given with a positive mindset.

Sources said they also said the government did not take effective steps in time for the students trapped in Ukraine and that it should have acted quickly to get "our people out".

They also said the advisories issued by the embassy there were confusing, due to which most of the students remained there.

The Indian government should have used India's goodwill to mediate between the two countries so that violence could have stopped, they added.

Maintaining that war situations are always challenging and "there are no perfect solutions in such situations", Gandhi said that for the time being "our priority should be to get our students out of Ukraine safely", according to the sources.

Congress MPs said that in such a war situation, "we cannot adopt a partisan approach and it is necessary for India to remain neutral so that our people can get out safely", the sources pointed out.

Congress leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said, "Leaders of the world should desist from uttering nuclear war as nuclear warheads available now are capable enough to turn the world itself into extinction."

Party's whip in Lok Sabha Manickam Tagore target BJP leaders and ministers over their statements on the evacuation of students.

"When in Iraq 1,70,000 Indians got back in 1990, 70000 Indians from Libya got back in 2011 but no dramabhazi, now Ministers getting lessons from Mayor of other countries. #Romania #Ukraine," he said in a tweet.

"Why BJP Ministers do this cheap things?" he said.

"Why this Dramabazi Mr Ministers."

Congress MPs from Punjab had on Wednesday called on Minister of State for External Affairs Meenakshi Lekhi and requested her to sensitise the government about the need to further augment and reinforce evacuation efforts for Indians.

CPI MP Binoy Viswam on Thursday said the Centre has been "unable to pre-empt" the situation in Ukraine, leaving thousands of Indians to "fend for themselves" in the war-torn country.

The CPI MP also accused the Union ministers trying to "steal the limelight" once the Indians reached safe zones "on their own".

In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Viswam said while he appreciated the efforts of the government, its policies "have left a lot to be desired."

He said it is during the time of war that the "true character of a nation and its government is revealed."

"It is deeply unfortunate that our government has been unable to pre-empt the situation in Ukraine, despite sufficient information about the pending war, leaving thousands of citizens to fend for themselves amidst intense crossfire and shelling.

"The response of the government has only been reactionary, leaving little scope for it to actively ensure safety and the timely evacuation of our people in Ukraine.

Once Indians reached safe zones on their own, the government and its ministers wasted no opportunity to steal the limelight and gloss over the reality of what Indians faced in Ukraine," he said in the letter.

Calling the government's evacuation efforts "superficial", Viswam criticised statements of ministers blaming the students for failing to evacuate themselves on time and for questioning their academic competence.

He alleged that these statements sought to "demonize them for studying abroad."

"Despite our diplomatic ties with both Russia and Ukraine, the government was unable to provide actual help to those stranded there and the contradictory advisories issued by the Indian embassy typified the government's response as it first asked Indians to seek shelter and then gave them a few hours to reach safety, without any ground assistance from the Indian government.

"The government's efforts cannot only be restricted to operating flights from neighbouring countries of Ukraine and it is essential that we take every single action possible to help all Indians stranded within the territory of Ukraine," he said.


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