Bureau Report + BBC
NEW DELHI/ KYIV: Rishi Dwivedi is one of thousands of Indian students evacuated from Ukraine a year ago but he’s now back studying in Lviv, despite the threat the war poses to his safety.
“Air raid sirens alerting us about incoming missile or drone attacks go off as many as four times a day,” Dwivedi, 25, told the BBC.
The fifth-year student, from Kannauj in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in medicine and surgery at the Lviv National Medical University.
He was rescued when Russia invaded a year ago but decided to return last October to finish his degree.
After a 22-year-old Indian medical student was killed in shelling at the start of the war, India evacuated 23,000 of its nationals who’d been trapped, including 18,000 students but large numbers most of them medics have since gone back, defying government advice. They say they have little choice if they are to work as doctors.
Dwivedi is among 1,100 Indians currently living in Ukraine. Most are students in cities like Lviv, Uzhgorod and Ternopil in the west of the country within range of Russian air attacks but a long way from fighting in the east.
They’re not the only foreigners to return. The BBC met African students who’d gone back to Lviv, and others are considering whether they should too.
“We wonder if we’ll be able to finish our course. When helicopters or planes fly over us, we are unable to sleep. We worry if there is going to be an attack,” says Shrishti Moses, a medical student in her fourth year in Lviv.
Power supply is patchy, so Ms Moses, who’s from the northern Indian city of Dehradun, had to move to a more expensive apartment in a neighborhood with regular electricity.
Given these conditions, why return to Ukraine?
Experts say that most Indian medical students abroad want to return to their country after graduating. But for that, they need permission from the National Medical Commission (NMC), India’s medical education regulator.
When the war forced these students out of their education, India’s education minister said the government would “do everything possible” to “make them doctors”.
The Indian Medical Association asked for such students to be accommodated in Indian colleges. State governments made similar demands.
India’s external affairs ministry even asked for “Indian private medical institutions to enroll returnee students… on a one-time exceptional basis” but the health ministry ruled otherwise. It said in July that there were no provisions to “accommodate or transfer medical students from any foreign medical institutes to Indian medical colleges”.
Many students who returned from Ukraine aren’t even seeking admission to Indian colleges because of the fierce competition to gain entry and the high cost of medical courses. Vaishali Sethia, who is studying medicine at the Ternopil National Medical University, left Ukraine via the Hungarian border in early March last year and returned in November.
“The NMC had issued an order declaring that Indian students who had taken admission in foreign universities after November 2021 would have to finish the course in the same university if they wanted their degrees to be recognized in India,” says Ms Sethia, who’s from Faridabad just outside Delhi.
She said she gained admission in December 2021, just a couple of months before war forced her to leave. (Int’l Monitoring Desk)