Published: 14th October 2022
Over 1,300 visas issued to Indian medical students from China. But is the problem solved?
Students still complain about the absence of direct flights, spending a large amount of money on the journey to China and quarantine
It was in September that the processing of visa applications for Indian medical students from China reached its peak. Now, more than 1,300 visas have been issued to Indian students from Chinese medical universities, Liu Jinsong, the Director General of the Asian Affairs of the Chinese Foreign Ministry informed Indian Ambassador to China Pradeep Kumar Rawat.
The diplomats met in Beijing to discuss bilateral relations and international and regional situations, as per a PTI report. The report mentions that Indian officials have confirmed that over 100 students have returned so far. But the journey has been difficult, students and parents informed EdexLive.
The first issue that poses a problem is the absence of direct flights. "Students who returned were forced to take connecting flights. It costs a huge amount, about Rs 1-1.5 lakh," said Mohammad Sageer, Joint Secretary of FMGPA (Foreign Medical Graduates Parents' Association).
Snehal PS, a medical student from China said, "The transit flights are available from Bangkok, Sri Lanka and Hong Kong. Hong Kong is the cheapest option. But getting a visa for it is extremely difficult."
"We held talks with the Ministry of External Affairs and the officials said they would try to arrange direct flights, but that hasn't happened," Sageer added.
"There is no breakthrough in India-China talks to resume direct flights due to Beijing's policy of abrupt cancellations of flights if any COVID cases are found in the coming flights, according to official sources here (Beijing). Officials say the resumption of direct flights is unlikely in the near future unless China scraps its policy to cancel flights if any passenger is tested positive as the airlines are not involved in the testing process," the PTI report states.
Here are some other issues which prove to be hurdles for students wishing to return to China:
Issuance of NOCs
Alka Krishnan, a student from Yangzhou University, informed that about 26 universities have issued the NOCs (No Objection Certificates) to the students. "But for processing the visa, a hard copy of the NOC is required. Though some universities have sent it, many others have sent only the soft copy," she said. "There has been a delay in sending the hard copy for various reasons by some universities," Alka added.
Another student from Kerala who wishes to remain anonymous, on the other hand, stated that some universities were deliberately delaying the issuance of NOCs. "The three main medical universities in China, where most of the South Indian students are concentrated, are Yangzhou University, Ningbo University and Dali University. And these three universities have not yet issued the NOCs," he said.
He added that while Yangzhou University had at least completed the survey about stranded Indian students, Ningbo University has not yet started the process and neither replied to students' queries as to when the process will begin and when they would receive their NOCs. "When the university did not respond, some students boycotted the ongoing online classes, but it bore no results," the student said.
"The university has still not informed about the NOCs. On top of this, it has started admitting a fresh batch of students and is prioritising them. the agents are not helping the students either," he said further. Snehal says that if the universities start issuing the NOCs now, students would receive their visas between November and December. "But since they are not issuing the NOCs, the process is getting further delayed and many have already returned," he complained.
Sageer says that a possible reason for delays and non-issuance of NOCs could be the fact that many provinces in China are still under lockdown. "Few universities have informed that their local governments are not permitting them to issue NOCs. Few universities have not yet reopened, while few others stated that quarantine arrangements were being made," he said. "I hope that within the next one to two months, most of the students would be able to get their visas," he added.
The students who recently returned to China underwent seven days of quarantine in the place their flight landed and another seven days in their respective hostels, Sageer said. "It is in hearing that the COVID-19 restrictions and quarantine guidelines may ease in future, there is no clarity on the situation," Alka added.
"So, students are confused, unable to decide if they should go now or wait some more," she explained further. Both Sageer and Alka cited that quarantine required shelling out a huge amount of money. "This is another reason for reluctance," Alka said.
Despite these issues, students have managed to trickle back to China. According to Alka, two batches of students have returned till date. "The first batch consisted of final-year students and interns, while the second batch consisted of fourth-year students," she said. Meanwhile, Sageer informed that about 40 students returned to China from Kochi last week.
Asked whether classes have resumed for the students who have returned, Alka said, "The classes are continuing online. The universities have informed that the classes will be conducted online for this semester." She explains that since students are being called back in batches, resuming offline classes will not be possible till all the batches have returned.