Published: 08th September 2022
Declare Ukraine-returned Indian medical students 'War Victims/Protected Persons': Petition filed in Supreme Court
The petition seeks relief for Indian medical students who returned from war-torn Ukraine and who haven't been accommodated in Indian medical colleges to help continue their education
A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court demanding that the Indian medical students who were forced to return from Ukraine due to the war with Russia this year be declared as "War Victims/Protected Persons" under the Geneva Convention of 1949.
The petition has been listed for hearing by the apex court on Monday, September 12. It was filed by the National Medical Forum, an NGO "in order to safeguard and enforce the fundamental rights of the evacuee Indian students of war-torn Ukraine, particularly the Right to Life, Right to Education and Right to Equality enshrined and guaranteed under Article 21 and Article 21A and Article 14 of the Constitution of India."
"There have been a lot of discussions around the topic, but nothing has come out of it. These students are war victims and they have their own rights," Dr Prem Aggarwal, President, National Medical Forum, shared with EdexLive.
The National Medical Commission, while refusing to accommodate these students in Indian medical colleges had granted them "mobility" to continue their education from medical universities in neighbouring countries which would be willing to take them in. This was in light of the fact that the situation in Ukraine was not yet safe for the students to return.
However, Ukraine-returned medical students told EdexLive that the NMC's move was simply not sufficient. They said that 'mobility' is like a transfer programme and it is their university that decides where they can move to continue their education. They also added that most universities have closed their transfer programmes already. Then there's also the case of expenses that are involved in shifting to another country and the requirement to learn a new language in a short span of time.
Given these issues, the National Medical Forum petitioned the Supreme Court to provide these students protection as "War Victims/Protected Persons" under the Geneva Convention and direct the NMC to relax the regulations with regard to these students so they are free to pursue their education in India and abroad as well as allow them to practice in India.
The petition seeks the relaxation of the (Foreign Medical Graduate Licentiate), Regulations, 2021, in order to ease the students' path to internships, permanent registrations and licenses as doctors in India.
However, the petition seems to have ruffled a few feathers in India. Federation of All India Medical Association (FAIMA) has said that while they welcome the NMC's No Objection Certificate (NOC) to help these students continue with their education and are in favour of making the FMGE easier this year to help with the trauma of the war, the petition that seeks exemption from FMGE to practice medicine in India is unfair to those students who write the NEET UG and study medicine in India.
"The number of MBBS seats in India relative to the number of candidates who appear is low. Therefore, it will not only be an injustice to them to give their precious seats (which are already less in number) to the war zone-affected candidates but will also form a wrong example for future generations. We also hope that these students and higher officials understand that the level of competency required to become a qualified doctor to practice in India is no child's play," said Dr Rafia Fatima, National Spokesperson of FAIMA.
Almost 22,000 students, including about 18,000 medical students were evacuated from Ukraine when the war with Russia first broke out in February this year. The NMC has provided relaxation in terms of internship criteria to enable these students to write the Foreign Medical Graduates Exam (FMGE) to earn their license to practice medicine in India, apart from allowing them "mobility" to continue their education abroad.