Lockdown: Stranded Maharashtra students wait for flight out of Russia

Updated: Jun 26, 2020, 08:13 IST | Hemal Ashar | Mumbai

State students stranded for three months desperate to return; Maharashtra BJP leader urges defence minister to help

Vishal Narayan Ghule and Santosh S Bhanage
Vishal Narayan Ghule and Santosh S Bhanage

State BJP president Chandrakant Patil on June 24 requested special intervention through an e-mail letter from Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, currently in Russia, to enable the return of stranded students from the country to their homes in Maharashtra.

Lauding the recent 'Vande Bharat' mission, Patil's letter says that Indian students from universities in Russia, mostly pursuing medical courses, are stuck in Russia for close to three months now. Their families back home are worried, he said.

Vishal Narayan Ghule from Ahmednagar, a third-year MBBS student from Mari State University in Yoshkar-Ola told mid-day, "I live in a flat and have been stuck here since mid-March when classes closed down. We gave online exams but are waiting for flights home. My flatmates have left for their respective homes. I am longing to come back."

Patil's letter said, "I am certain that the Indian Mission in Moscow has details of all the students. This coordination will need great cooperation from Russian authorities as many of these places are over 10 hours away from Moscow by road. While there was a successful flight from Moscow to Nagpur just last week, ferrying 145 students from across India, many more such efforts are needed from our embassy in Moscow. It may be prudent to specially request the official Russian carrier Aeroflot to run flights from Moscow and St Petersburg to Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur."

The route

Santosh S Bhanage, 22, another medical student in Yoshkor-Ola said there is going to be a flight from Moscow to Nagpur on July 4 but "I do not know if I will get a seat on that." Bhanage lives with three flatmates from Rajasthan and Haryana, one of whom has left and the other two are set to leave by the month-end." He said, "I will be alone after that." Students rue that there are skeletal flights to Mumbai. Even if flights land in Nagpur, Ahmednagar is at least 600 km from there, it will be a little less than half the distance from Mumbai. "There are many more flights to Nagpur, but landing there will mean making a long road journey from there while landing in Mumbai is much easier but I think there has been only one flight to Mumbai to date," said Bhanage.

Patil's letter goes on to state, "It would be of great help if you could take up this issue during your discussions with officials of the Russian Federation. I understand that it is not under the protocol to discuss matters other than those pre-decided between the two countries. However, when the world has come together to help each other fight COVID-19, India and Russia must leave no stone unturned in their quest to help citizens of both nations."

Fare fear

Sanket Annasaheb Bhoge, studying for an MBBS degree, said, "There are a couple of us living in the University hostel. We are afraid that somebody may contract COVID-19 because of the common toilets and bathrooms. I have heard there are many applications for a forthcoming flight to Nagpur," but the ticket prices, students said, are daunting at R50,500 which is, "three times the normal fare."

Mumbai's Apurva Mayekar from Mari State University said, "There has been just one flight for Mumbai and Nagpur each so far. The Nagpur flight accommodated a number of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh citizens. About 15 students have gone to Mumbai from our University, the rest are stuck here with little information."

Youngsters and families are praying for political intervention in such a scenario, and Patil's letter, also marked to the Minister of External Affairs and Minister of Civil Aviation may be a helpline.

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