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Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Indian students studying abroad or having plans to study abroad are facing numerous problems owing to the travel bans and strict restrictions on international travel. According to the Ministry of External Affairs, in 2020 2.6 lakh students went abroad for further studies compared to around 5.19 lakh in 2019, a decline of nearly 55 percent. Moreover students who already completed the admission process and paid the fees are unable to travel due to restrictions.
In July, a Canada based trade and cultural body Overseas Friends of India Canada (OFIC) wrote a letter to Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau urging him on behalf of Indian diaspora and international students to lift travel ban and start direct flights from India. According to a letter written by Indian students studying medicine in Chinese Universities to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, there are around 25,000 Indian students studying in Chinese universities who are attending online classes for the past 17 months due to travel and visa restrictions. Indian students are unable to attend practical classes, which are a crucial part of medical studies. In China, MBBS students are required to complete a 52-week physical internship in an assigned hospital after completing their five-year medical course to obtain their degree. The students have urged Indian government to talk with Chinese government to make arrangements for their return to their universities.
To help Indian students, in June India's Ministry of External Affairs issued guidelines and directions, asking the Indian students studying abroad, struck in India, to send their coordinates to Overseas Indian Affairs (OIA) – II division of the ministry. While replying to a question in Rajya Sabha Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan said "Our missions abroad have been actively taking up these issues with the respective governments and have been impressing upon those governments to ease the travel restrictions." He further added "The issue of travel restrictions has been taken up at the ministerial level with several countries. Consequently, travel restrictions are being eased for Indian students to travel to many countries, including the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Georgia, etc." A Global Indian Student Portal (GISP) is being developed by the government which will have information about the courses, foreign universities, nodal officers and accreditation requirements to guide the Indian students who want to study abroad.
Indian students enrolled in American Universities aren't facing a huge problem as the US has exempted a few categories of travelers from the travel ban which includes Indian students. Some Australian states have announced plans to allow international students back into the country at the rate of about 800 per month as part of a pilot programme. The UK will move India from Red List to Amber List from 8th August 2021, post which, upon arrival in the UK, students can go directly to their university or private accommodation to complete a 10 day quarantine period. With a decrease in the number of active COVID-19 cases in India, there can be some relief for students who want to travel to foreign countries.
This article has been written by Harsh Battulwar for The Paradigm
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