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Operation Ganga: All Indian students evacuated from Sumy

There were around 21,000 Indians across the country, mostly students

operationgangaf Sumy evacuation | MEA

With the homecoming of the last batch of a total of around 600 Indian students from Sumy, Ukraine, today, Operation Ganga's main objective is done. Sources in the ministry of external affairs (MEA) say that the mission is not yet officially closed and that they will watch out for news of any stragglers who are still left behind and need evacuation. External affairs minister S Jaishankar is expected to speak about the mission in Parliament in some time, say sources. He is also likely to brief the parliament about India's stand in this conflict. The minister has already tweeted that the evacuation of the students from Sumy was “particularly challenging''. 

These students were taken by special train from Lviv railway station to the Polish border yesterday. Three Indian Air Force (IAF) crafts brought back the last batch of students to the Hindon base of the IAF today, where they were welcomed by Union minister Anurag Thakur. 

The centre launched Operation Ganga on February 24 to bring back students who were stuck in Ukraine after Russia invaded the country. There were around 21,000 Indians across the country, mostly students studying medicine. Although the Centre had given repeated calls for them to leave the country while commercial flights were operating, many students remained behind for various reasons. The main reason was that the universities had not agreed to hold classes in online mode and the students were worried about their academic performance. The last two years have already disrupted studies across the world because of the pandemic.

After Russia's incursion into Ukraine, flights stopped operating from the country. Operation Ganga involved the Centre starting a multi ministry operation to coordinate evacuations. Prime Minister Narendra Modi personally spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskyy and Russian president Vladimir Putin, seeking assurance for the safety of Indian nationals and a safe transit out of the country. He also called up the leaders of the neighbouring countries with which Ukraine shares land borders -- Slovenia, Hungary, Romania, Poland and Moldova, seeking help and cooperation for India's evacuation efforts. Four top leaders -- civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia, law minister Kirren Rijiju, urban development minister Hardeep Singh Puri and former minister of state for external affairs, General V K Singh (retd) were dispatched to the various borders to coordinate evacuation efforts. 

India suffered a few casualties -- one student died in the bombing, one was injured. Another student died in hospital of a medical condition in the middle of the conflict. The Sumy group was the most difficult to evacuate, there was bombing all around and no safe passage. It has taken much coordination, and help from an already harassed Ukrainian government, to arrange for these students to be taken by buses to the border. At one time, the evacuation had to be called off and the students were requested to return to the shelters on the university campus because of the shelling. The cost of the evacuation was borne by the government. Apart from Indians, Operation Ganga has also rescued nationals from Bangladesh, Nepal, Tunisia and even Pakistan. 

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