TIRUCHY: Tiruchi Siva, Rajya Sabha MP, who headed the special rescue team constituted by Chief Minister MK Stalin to bring back Tamil Nadu students from Ukraine, shared his experience with The New Indian Express in Tiruchy on Sunday.
Q: As many as 1,890 students from TN who studied in Ukraine were repatriated. You led the rescue team constituted by the State government. How do you see the entire rescue operation in retrospect?
Earlier, there were around 2,000 TN students in the register. But after cross-checking, the number came down to 1,921. Chief Minister Stalin had already announced that all the travel expenses for Tamil Nadu students would be borne by the State government. He wrote to the external affairs minister.
After that, the GoI also announced of bearing the expenses. Our team met the external affairs minister and expressed our wish to travel to neighbouring countries such as Poland and Hungary. From there we could help in rescue measures by complementing the GoI’s efforts. We have our Tamil diaspora there.
They were in contact with us. When our students in Ukraine tried to hire buses to reach neighbouring countries, there were asked 500 dollars each. They did not have money. Even transferring money was not possible.
Our team, through the diaspora there, helped the students to reach the countries. Later, the GoI also started arranging buses.
When the situation worsened, train services were also suspended. We suggested that we be allowed to fly to the neighbouring countries. But Minister S Jaishankar clearly explained the steps being taken by them. He kept updating me on WhatsApp.
In the beginning, when 500 to 1,000 students were being evacuated from Ukraine, only 10 to 15 of them were Tamils. After our intervention, the number of Tamil students evacuated shot up to 200. So we decided to stay at New Delhi.
We arranged charter flights from Delhi for the rescued students to reach Chennai. We also took care of their transport from Chennai to their homes. There were some complaints that embassy officials were conversing mostly in Hindi.
Some students cried discrimination. That might not be totally untrue. We took the issue to the minister. He immediately instructed officials to pass on all information in English and in Hindi. When the evacuation numbers started increasing, our team members held review meetings every day.
We also interacted with the students there over phone to energise them. One thing they were concerned about was their education. Our CM also wrote to the GoI in this regard. The CM is also working on their studies not getting interrupted.
WATCH FULL INTERVIEW |
Q: One of the rescue team members from Tamil Nadu, MP MM Abdulla, wrote that your team endured sleepless nights and frequent phone calls from parents and students…
It is quite natural. They were in trouble because of the crisis. Those who were connected to them would also obviously get disturbed. Parents, on knowing that we are on the mission, rang us up even at odd hours.
When parents spoke, we consoled them. Students there also sent videos of their plight. We were happy that we could comfort them. We kept sending them messages saying, "Don't panic", “Don’t worry”, and "We are taking all efforts to bring you home".
Q: You mentioned the CM’s concern on having all students evacuated. He himself was present at Chennai airport to welcome the last batch of students. Kindly throw more light on the CM’s involvement.
I told the CM that with the Sumy arrivals, all the students from TN had returned. I requested him to allow me to bring over to his place the last batch of students who returned. He asked for the time and then said he would himself turn up at the Chennai airport. That was a great gesture. Earlier, he visited the State control room to talk to students there. I spoke with him whenever necessary. Tamil Nadu was the only State to constitute a team to oversee the evacuation of its students from Ukraine.
Q: In what ways was the Union government facilitating your efforts?
As I said they were taking some efforts and we complemented them. We had our own duties and responsibilities. We were coordinating with the embassy and with the ministry. They did their job very well, and we did our part. The intention on either side was to bring back our students safely, and at the earliest.
DMK protects Tamils no matter where they live: CM MK Stalin
CHENNAI: DMK president and Chief Minister MK Stalin on Sunday said all Tamil Nadu students stranded in Ukraine have been brought home successfully, and added that his party protects Tamils wherever they live.
"Be it local Tamils or those in Ukraine, the DMK safeguards all of them," Stalin said while presiding over a wedding in Chennai. He added that almost 2,000 students from Tamil Nadu who were in Ukraine have been brought back home
AIADMK coordinator O Panneerselvam thanks PM Modi for efforts to bring students home
CHENNAI: AIADMK coordinator O Panneerselvam on Sunday thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the Centre’s efforts in bringing Indian students home from Ukraine. In a letter, Panneerselvam said the safe return of Indian students from Sumy, with the cooperation of Russia and Ukraine, was remarkable. On behalf of the AIADMK and people of Tamil Nadu, I would like to place my sincere thanks for the prompt and effective action, Panneerselvam added