BHUBANESWAR/ROURKELA: Turmoil in Afghanistan with the Taliban taking over the country has left the nation’s students in Odisha distraught. As they spend agonising time worrying about safety of their families back in their homeland, they are also gripped with uncertainty over their education and future course of life.
Ehsanullah, a 28-year-old MCA student of Utkal University, has not slept for the last two days and has been in constant touch with his family of six. A resident of Takhar Province in north Afghanistan, he joined the Utkal University this year through Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) under Government of India.
“My father had retired from government job earlier this year and all my five brothers were employed in various wings of the Afghanistan government. Last week, my father’s pension and retirement benefits were cancelled, and brothers lost their jobs”, said Ehsanullah, whose Visa expires after six months.
However, he does not want to return to Afghanistan amid this crisis and unemployment. “Even my family does not want me to return because the situation is very bad in my land and there is so much uncertainty. I would rather stay in India or any other country than go back to Afghanistan”, he said.
Like Ehsanullah, around 25 Afghan students are enrolled in various public and private universities in the State. They have either taken admission through scholarship and self-financing mode sponsored under Direct Admission of Students from Abroad (DASA) or ICCR schemes.
Af students in Odisha worry about future
While many of them returned to Afghanistan during the first and the second Covid lockdowns and have been attending online classes, there are others who preferred to stay back in hostels of their institutions. The ICCR has sponsored scholarships for 14 Afghanistan students of which 11 were in National Institute of Technology-Rourkela (NIT-R) and one each in International Institute of Information Technology at Gothapatna in Bhubaneswar and Utkal University.
Of the 11 students at NIT-R, two had left for their country earlier this year, two are pursuing MTech and the rest are doing BTech on the campus. Sardar Wali, a 23-year old BTech third year student of NIT-R said his family is in Kabul. He has spoken to his parents, who have kept themselves locked. “All nine of us from Afghanistan in NIT-R campus are extremely stressed now about the safety of our families after the Talibans took over our country”, said Wali whose father was an employee of the now defunctelection commission. He said fathers of all his fellow students in NIT-R were government employees and they are particularly worried for their well-being given Taliban’s violent history towards the government.
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“Everywhere in Afghanistan, there is lawlessness and loot. The Afghan embassy at Delhi is of no help with no government in our country. Food safety will be a problem now because today, a piece of ‘roti’ which normally costs `10, was sold at `30 in Kabul”, he said. Wali added that the inevitable came fast as they were expecting Taliban to take control in three months.
Now there is no way left for their safe evacuation from the country. With the situation going worse and a stringent regime now imminent, the fate of the students who had gone home due to Covid also hangs in balance. A girl student of Bachelors of Business Administration course in a Bhubaneswar-based private university has been attending classes online from her home in Kabul since the outbreak of Covid- 19 last year.
She is, however, unsure if she can ever come back to the university. “Just a few days back, I had sought permission from the Embassy to go back to Bhubaneswar but it rejected my application. Today everything has been shut down and we cannot leave our house. It is not safe anymore but there is no way I can escape now. The only silver lining is that I am at least with my parents at this hour of crisis”, she told The New Indian Express, requesting anonymity. NIT-R registrar Prof PK Das said the institute is committed to provide the Afghan students all possible support in this hour of unprecedented crisis.