About 15,000 to 18,000 Indians study in different cities in Ukraine, mostly as medical students. There has been a constant war between Ukraine and Russia for 6 months, but still no signs of a peaceful agreement between the said countries. The Indian students pursuing their medical degrees from Ukrainian institutions are left bewildered because of the ongoing war.
The students had the option of attending online classes. However, due to NMC’s stance, medical courses taken exclusively in online mode cannot be recognized or approved, further hindering the studies of students. So, it makes pretty clear that NMC is indirectly encouraging students to pursue their degree offline in Ukraine, which unfortunately, is not the most effective course of action.
IS EXPLORING DIFFERENT OPTIONS POSSIBLE?
One of the options is taking a transfer to different universities in other countries which again, comes with pile of conditions and challenges. Under the Screening Test Regulations, 2002, there are no provisions regarding transfer of medical students from another country. Thus, transfer is not restricted if all other criteria stipulated in Screening Test Regulations, 2002 are met. Foreign Medical Students whose classes began after 18th Nov 2021 and are covered by FMGL Regulations, 2021. They are required to verify their undergraduate courses according to Regulation 4 of FMGL Regulations 2021. Training, internship, and clerkship shall, however, be completed in the same foreign medical institution throughout the study course, and no part of training will be done at another institution. Hence, transfer is not allowed.
In case we consider the transfer of Ukrainian students to other countries, it would not be feasible for a number of reasons: first, no guarantee can be given that the universities will accept the students, the chances of fraud are high, and in neighbouring countries, the market prices are on the rise, which would mean higher expenses for the students, which most of them cannot afford.
The second option is to get back to Ukraine and continue studying there; however, this would most likely be the riskiest and not at all the safest choice to make due to the inevitable circumstances in Ukraine; therefore, the safest option would be to wait and take a year break from the degree, but it is difficult to make this decision anytime soon because there is no clue as to when the situation will normalize.
THE SUPREME COURT’S AND GOVERNMENT’S STANCE
The Supreme Court in the case of National Medical Commission Versus Pooja Thandu Naresh and Others directed the appellant
I) to frame a scheme as a one-time measure within two months to allow the student and such similarly situated students who have not actually completed clinical training to undergo clinical training in India in the medical colleges which may be identified by the appellant for a limited duration as may be specified by the appellant, on such charges which the appellant determines.
II) It shall be open to the appellant to test the candidates in the scheme so framed in the manner within next one month, which it considers appropriate as to satisfy that such students are sufficiently trained to be provisionally registered to complete internship for 12 months.
Since, NMC has been uncooperative, they have not followed the first direction because framing a one-time measure is hectic. However, they have fulfilled the second direction, which is indeed an easy task and does not require much effort.
It also released FAQs for them, but the FAQs contained redundant statements and no new information in favour of the students was dealt with. Therefore, it remains futile and of no help to the students.
The National Medical Commission, NMC, has been delaying decisions on Ukrainian-returned Indian students since they returned. In issuing this notice, the hearing on 26 August, 2022, again, the Supreme Court had asked NMC and the Centre to clarify and respond to the queries raised in the petitions filed by Ukraine-returned Indian student, as a result, it has given the authorities this time to respond to the Apex Court’s postponement of the hearing.
While the hearing, one of the judges in the division bench had said the act of pursuing a medical degree in Ukraine was voluntary and Ukraine was their choice. However, the main argument here is that it was a mercy petition and when they didn’t get seats in India, they moved to Ukraine fulfilling the eligibility criteria. Ukraine was chosen due to some unavoidable monetary reasons, and it was not a factor they were not interested in in India.
Now, 6 months have passed without any positive move for students, which impacts their educational future and right to education since the online classes offered by the university will no longer be valid from 18th August, which indirectly forces them to return to a war zone.
As of now, we had the last hearing on 5th September and therein ,Soliticor General Tushar Mehta states that “it seems” the Ministry of External Affairs has given a positive go ahead for Ukraine returned medical students to pursue medicine in India, which still holds a ray of hope for the notice and positive recommendations by NMC. Now, for the government, the best option would either be to accommodate students in Indian universities or, as a last resort, to make online classes valid by combining them with offline practicals in Indian universities and offline internships as the students could not risk their lives in Ukraine and they have their career at stake if the government and judiciary have their arms folded.