Published: 06th September 2022
Chinese universities call back Indian students; no direct flight proves to be a roadblock
Most students complain that they are facing difficulties returning to China because of the absence of direct flights. They staged a Twitter campaign regarding the problem
Stranded in India even after receiving a visa? It seems like there is no end to the ordeals of Indian students from Chinese medical universities.
After being stranded amidst uncertainty for about two years in India, China has finally opened its borders for them and their respective universities have called them back with NOCs (No Objection Certificates). But most students complain that they are faced with difficulties in returning to China because of the absence of direct flights. This absence specifically affects the students who have already received their NOCs and ought to be in China next month.
The students staged a Twitter campaign over the problem on Sunday, September 4. Alka Krishnan, a student of one of the Chinese universities who is now back in Kerala, said that it was a good thing that the universities have started calling students back and India has started processing the visas as well, but the price of flights was the biggest hurdle at present. “We wanted to draw attention to two things through the campaign. We want direct flights and want the prices of the flights reduced,” she said.
“The price of the transit flights comes to about Rs 1.5 to 2 lakh, which is very high,” informs Jayalakshmi Jayadevan, another student from Kerala who is pursuing her education from a university in China. The students exclaim that this price is almost double their tuition fees. “Most of us have taken loans for our studies. We cannot afford such heavy flight expenses,” states Alka.
She additionally explains that it is not only the flight prices that they are worried about. If students opt for transit flights, they have to follow the quarantine and RT-PCR test protocols of the country where the flight stops first. Then, after they finally enter China, the students have to undergo these protocols once again, as mandated by the Chinese government. “The price of the tests and quarantine is also very high,” Alka says.
“It comes to about Rs 7 to 10 lakh,” informs Mohammad Waseem, another student from China based in Delhi. He says that 15-day quarantine is a must in China and the hotels meant for this purpose are allocated by the government. “They are 4-star and 5-star hotels, where the cost per day goes up to Rs 7,000 and are difficult to afford,” he adds.
What can be done?
Starting direct flights is what the students are proposing as a solution. They want the government to either enable direct flights or start chartered flights for helping students return to China. “Now some agents are offering chartered flights, but the cost is very high,” says Andrews Matthews, President of FMGPA (Foreign Medical Graduates Parents’ Association).
Matthews informs that the association had approached the Ministry of External Affairs last week about this issue. They had also written to Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan and to MP Shashi Tharoor about this.
Mohammad Sageer, Joint Secretary of FMGPA adds that last week, the association submitted memorandums to other concerned government authorities like the Ministry of Aviation regarding this problem. But so far they have not received any response.
“We are fed up and want the government to regularise flights to China soon,” Sageer states. There is an urgency in his tone because the students have to reach China within a stipulated time as per the visa. “Otherwise the visas might no longer be valid,” says Rachita Kurmi, a student from Mumbai who pursues medical education in China.
Matthews, on the other hand, states that he is hopeful for a positive response from the government soon.
Jayalakshmi informs that 11 universities have issued NOCs to the students, while some provinces are still under lockdown and the universities there have not opened yet. Wuhan University and Xi’an Jiaotong University are two varsities which have called the students back from India.
Ridhi Gupta, a student from Haryana, studying at Xi’an Jiaotong has already received her visa appointment. When we asked her about how she is planning to go back, she says, “I don’t have a clue. There seems to be no way now. I have to reach China by October 15. So, I hope the government comes out with a regular flight or issues a chartered flight before that.”
On the contrary, Sushma Hossur, a student of Wuhan University from Karnataka, who has also received her visa, says, “I don’t think chartered flights are a solution. The students are being called in batches and have to travel to various cities. I don’t think it is feasible for the Indian government to charter a flight every single time. Moreover, the flights have to come back empty.”
She informs that she is planning to take a transit flight. According to her research, as of now, there are three flight options available, she says. The first is from New Delhi, while the others are from Myanmar and Colombo. Sushma says that these flights land in different cities in mainland China. “Many don’t know this, but if a city is under lockdown and the flight lands there, the quarantine days for the student are increased,” she informs. “However, I have to reach China by the end of this month, so I have to choose an expensive flight to get my degree,” she adds.
Visas: Students complain that though visa processing is ongoing, it is slow. They say that if they apply now, they receive appointments after months. Additionally, the authorities demand a hard copy of the NOC, whereas, when universities send the hard copy by post, there tends to be a delay. So, they want the process to be expedited. And as for the hard copy, Alka says that a confirmation mail from the university along with the soft copy should be accepted.
Internship: Matthews informs that many students are yet to be allowed to pursue their internship in India even after clearing the FMGE (Foreign Medical Graduates Examination). Sushma confirms the fact. She states that as she has already completed her course and cleared FMGE, she wouldn’t need to go to China if she was allowed to pursue an internship here.