Government lacks data on Indian nationals in other nations

The Indian diplomatic mission at Kyiv was caught napping and so did the Indian establishment back home

Visakhapatanam: During emergencies such as the ongoing Ukraine-Russia war, the state and central governments scurry around to get details as to how many Indians might be caught in the crossfire. They hardly maintain records even in the age of computerized data that can be availed at the touch of a button.

Both Delhi and states start gathering such data only after the worst has happened, as was the case now with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which was in the coming for weeks of constant US alerts. The Indian diplomatic mission at Kyiv was caught napping and so did the Indian establishment back home.

Despite the nation having a passport stamping system, there is no collation of data as to how many Indians are in any specific country at a given time. When something happens, embassies themselves are caught unawares.

It would also appear that there exists a communication gap between the overseas education consultancies and the Indian government. Last year, the Centre announced the launch of a Global Indian Student Portal by 2022, but there has been no progress on this count yet.

B Satyannarayana, father of an MBBS student stuck in the war-hit nation, said, “I wonder what the government was doing all these years. My daughter went to Ukraine three years ago for her medicine course. Now, the government does not know how many Indian students went to Ukraine for studies. This looks very strange to me.”

Another parent, a PSU employee at Seethammadhara in the city said, “We furnished almost all details right from the passport to the personal phone numbers of my son and our contact details to the educational consultants. They got the clearance for the passage of my son to his destination abroad. The government does not maintain any such details and they are now seeking out the information for evacuation.”

In the case of the AP government, it opened an emergency helpline linked to the AP Non-Resident Telugu Society (APNRTS) for Andhra natives stuck in Ukraine after the war started and asked the people to register their names for help.

A professor of Andhra University said, “Forget about the government, even local authorities like the police do not have data on how many foreigners are in the city here and on what purpose they have been in the city. This is so even though hotels report to the police every time a foreigner checks in. There is no effort to keep the data ready for a sudden analysis, though.”

It was in reply to a question in parliament last year that the government said a Global Indian Student Portal would be launched to help the students abroad. The matter was not pursued, the professor noted.

Around 11 lakh Indian students are admitted to educational institutions across the globe as per estimates provided by an education consultancy. Indian embassies do not even know how many Indians work or live in their territories. There have been complaints that the embassy in Kyiv failed to rise to the expectations of the stranded students in Ukraine, except for the issue of some advisories to start with, but caught up later with some help for their exit from the country.

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