Why are medical students from Bengal left out of Operation Vande Bharat?

eNewsroom exclusive: Medical students in Bangladesh from West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and North East part of India claim Vande Bharat Mission is excluding them claiming state govt non-cooperation

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Kolkata/Dhaka: Even as the first batch of 167 medical students from Jammu & Kashmir stranded in Bangladesh were airlifted from Dhaka, under Operation Vande Bharat, a massive repatriation programme to bring back Indians stranded in international shores, another batch of students mainly from eastern India began sending frantic emails and tweets urging the state and central government to bring them back home.

Sayan Reja, a medical student at Bangladesh’s Community-Based Medical College, during a WhatsApp call with eNewsroom said, “We are at least 250 students from West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and northeastern states like Assam, Tripura, and Mizoram, stuck in Bangladesh. Our request made to the Indian Home Ministry to be airlifted to India has been rejected.”

Non-Cooperating WB government?

When asked if they had been told the reason for their request to be air-lifted being turned down, Reza said, “We have been told West Bengal government doesn’t want us back. In an email written by one of us, we have been asked to contact the West Bengal government asking them to cooperate with the central government.”

Reza, a resident of Jalpaiguri, West Bengal, is not the only one to feel the heat as batch after batch of students is being brought back. Highlighting their plight, Souvik Dasgupta, a medical student at Asha Medical College, Dhaka said, “We are three students from our college and I know at least 50 more students from the eastern and north-eastern zone of India, who are now going to be stuck in Bangladesh for an unknown period during this Covid-19 pandemic. We are extremely worried and have been in constant touch with the Indian High Commission in Dhaka, who told us that the WB government is not cooperating with the centre. Following this, I even wrote an email (a copy of which lies with eNewsroom) to the WB Home Secretary but we are yet to get any response. We are students, we don’t understand politics. If our friends from other states can be air-lifted then why can’t we?”

Operation Vande Bharat Bangladesh Students
Mail sent to a student by AAI

When eNewsroom contacted, Home Secretary, West Bengal, Alapon Bandhopadhhyay, to know the reason, he said, “You have to speak to the officers concerned, please. Kindly excuse.”

State Vs Centre game, again

Speaking to eNewsroom, regarding the issue of students from the eastern and north-eastern part of India, not being brought back, TMC MP Sougata Roy said, “As far as I know the decision to bring back Indians stranded in international shores, lies exclusively with the central government. The state government has no role in bring people back from foreign countries.” On being asked about the email that the students in Bangladesh have got, stating non-cooperation from the state government, he said, “I have no idea about this issue.”

Meanwhile, when Akshay Joshi, the first secretary, education, at the Indian High Commission in Dhaka was contacted, he said, “The students from these zones shouldn’t panic, we are in constant touch with them.” He, however, refused to answer any query related to the State versus Centre conflict. He said, “Please contact the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi for all the updates.”

Students have also made a video of their appeal and uploaded on YouTube

Solitude, lack of money and food stares at Indian students

“We are just two medical students left in this hostel. Both of us are from Bihar and are studying medicine at Sir Salimullah Medical College,” informed a worried Priya Vats. On being asked about the problems being faced by her she said, “The hostel mess has been shut down as a huge chunk of Indian students, who were from Kashmir have been airlifted. Now the two of us are on our own. We have no food to eat, the shops are closed. How long can we survive on boiled potatoes and biscuits?”

Vats maintained that her request to airlift had been turned down as she had listed Kolkata airport as her option. “My request was turned down saying that Kolkata airport is not operational. So, I re-applied but was told that since I had registered earlier with Kolkata as an option, I can’t reapply. Now we are stuck,” lamented Vats.

Like Vats, many Indian medical students hailing from the eastern and north-eastern part of India face the issue of being the sole inhabitants of the hostel, once the students from other Indian states are evacuated from Bangladesh. “We have a grave future in store for us. Imagine having to live alone in a hostel, with no provision. With mess being closed, we will now have to venture out for food. And with money running out we might even have to starve,” said Reza.

Highlighting the same, Dasgupta said, “In India, all banks are closed. Our parents are not being able to send us money. How are we going to survive during such troubling times? We want to go back home. The State and Centre have to resolve their issues and think about us as humans and not pawns.”

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