Operation Ganga, a government of India initiative seeking to evacuate Indians stranded in Ukraine, has been assisting students and Indian nationals in Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovak Republic. But students still in eastern cities say they are stuck and cannot leave.
The official spokesperson of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs has also confirmed that an Indian student lost his life in shelling in Kharkiv on the morning of March 1. The Embassy of India in Kyiv has told all Indian nationals including students to “leave Kyiv urgently today”, either by “trains or through any other means available”.
On February 28, the Embassy of India in Kyiv told all students to take evacuation trains and travel west.
“We sincerely request all Indian nationals/ students to remain calm, peaceful and united,” it wrote, adding that students remain patient, composed and “not exhibit aggressive behaviors”.
“Ukrainians both civilians and authorities have been remarkably supportive in facilitating evacuation efforts of Indian citizens, especially considering these critical and dangerous times,” the Embassy added.
NISAU in the UK, which has been supporting Indian students in Ukraine, said that 40 students it had been guiding for last three days crossed into Romania on February 28 and will soon be on Operation Ganga rescue flights to Delhi.
The BBC has reported that some 3,000 Indian students are believed to be in the eastern city of Kharkiv. NISAU estimates that numbers are much higher, and has submitted data itself for than 4,300 individuals still in the city. Some place the actual figure at around 13,000-18,000.
“The Indian government is doing what it can,” Sanam Arora told The PIE. Officers have said that operations are being ramped up from March 1 but students have alleged racism at the Polish border, she added. On February 25, the Embassy helped 470 students to exit Ukraine and enter Romania through the Porubne-Siret Border.
One international student told The BBC that foreigners were “pushed back” at the border, especially students from India, Pakistan and Morocco, while Ukrainians were told to come forward. Others have also shared similar experiences.
“Students are now telling us that they are starting to run out of food, so we will be looking at how we can support on-ground efforts in getting food over to them,” Arora also told The Print.
“We are stuck here. We need help”
A 22-year-old Indian medical student Sheikh Abrar in Sumy in the east of the country told CNN that ways out of Ukraine are blocked.
“If we travel by bus we will not be able to cross into the west because Russian troops are everywhere,” he said. “We are stuck here. We need help.”
There is confusion on social media with hundreds posts asking about the logistics of Operation Ganga from cities such as Kharkiv and Sumy.
“Every second, every minute we are tweeting… we are trying to reach the Indian Embassy but what are they doing?” Abrar added.