China opens up its borders but no direct flights, Indian students want Centre’s help

AFTER TWO Covid-hit years, China has opened its borders to Indian students pursuing higher education courses in that country with several universities issuing NOCs for a return to campus. But the students and their parents say they are struggling to find ways to return in the absence of direct flights — and want the Centre to arrange chartered flights.

“In ordinary times, the travel to China including the flight may cost us not more than Rs 50,000. But flight tickets now cost about Rs 2 lakh. This is not affordable as most of the students come from middle class families. The Government has to intervene as it is their responsibility to ensure that these students are able to return to their classes. Just like how chartered flights were arranged under the Vande Bharat Mission to bring back Indians from foreign countries, they should be arranged for these students to reach China,” said Andrew Mathews, president, Foreign Medical Graduate Parents Association (FMGPA).

The association has written to the Ministry of External Affairs with the request. “Our email requests have not yielded any response. Even if it is not completely for free, the Government of India can at least offer chartered flights at discounted rates so that these students are able to reach China,” said Mohammed Sageer, joint secretary, FMGPA.

According to official estimates, there are about 20,000 Indian students, mostly studying medicine, who have not been able to attend classes in person due to strict Covid travel restrictions in China. Last month, after the Centre’s intervention, the Chinese government announced the reopening of borders for Indian students and plans to issue student visas.

India had earlier submitted a list of several hundred students after China sought the names of those wanting to return immediately to pursue their studies.

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