Operation Ganga, a humanitarian project to evacuate Indians from Ukraine, was a resounding success as most of the 20,000 Indians estimated to be living in the country invaded by Russia have been brought back safely. A history of such operations, beginning with the Kuwait war of 1990 from which as many as 1.70 lakh Indians were rescued, meant that India could not but go to the aid of stranded Indians who were caught in the conflict zones in Ukrainian cities like Kharkiv, Sumy and Kyiv.
It is debatable whether the government could have begun the evacuation process any earlier but they did act as early as on the third day of the war breaking out since when flights, both civilian and IAF, operated into countries neighbouring Ukraine. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s close ties with both Presidents, Vladimir Putin of Russia and Volodomyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine, facilitated the rescue of close to 20,000 students.
Given the situation of desperate foreign citizens stuck like this were bound to pick holes in the government’s efforts to come to the aid of people caught in conflicts and wars. But to labour the point as some in the Opposition tended to do was just vile politics. India lost only one citizen while another was injured in the shelling. The star rating for yet another evacuation exercise run by a nation for its citizens numbering thousands must be very high indeed.
Rescuing the career of the students who were in Ukraine is altogether another issue. The government has to find a way so as not to waste the human resources of young students, mostly medicos, who travel to other countries for various reasons connected with medical education that can accommodate only around one lakh medical students a year in India from among 15 lakh aspirants.
A way must be found to tag these students to government and private universities, including deemed ones, to complete their education and practice medicine. Only a national decision in this regard can help but it makes sense to utilise these students to bolster the national medical force in a country that has less than 1.5 doctors for every 1,000 Indians in a population close to 140 crore people. A decision on this as speedily taken as in the rescue would suit the situation.