With the guardians of 1,500 Odisha students stranded in Ukraine expressing concern over the safety of their wards, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Friday spoke to Union Home Minister Amit Shah and urged him to ensure the safe evacuation of students and labourers from the eastern state. Patnaik called up Shah in the morning after appeals poured in from common people from various parts of the state for evacuation of the Odia students, most of whom are studying medical courses in the eastern European nation.
"The chief minister spoke mostly on the evacuation of students and labourers," an official at the Chief Minister's Office said. "Shah assured the chief minister that the Government of India is in touch with the Ukrainian government and is working to bring back the students and labourers at the earliest," a CMO statement said. Patnaik directed Special Relief Commissioner P K Jena to coordinate the return of the Odisha residents from Ukraine. District magistrates were asked to collect information regarding students and workers stranded in Ukraine and coordinate with their family members in the eastern state. The chief minister said that the state government will bear the expenses of evacuating stranded Odias from Ukraine.
The state government also operationalised a special assistance cell at the office of Odisha Resident Commissioner Ravi Kant at Odisha Bhavan in New Delhi to coordinate with the Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Civil Aviation and other agencies concerned. "All processes to ensure the safe evacuation of students from Ukraine are underway. Since the airports in Ukraine are closed, the MEA has been taking the people of Indian origin, including those from Odisha, to some bordering countries from where they can take flights back to India. We are in constant touch with the MEA team working at the field level," Ravi Kant said.
On Thursday, guardians of the stranded students had appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik for the safe evacuation of their wards. Noting that the stranded students have been undergoing crisis of food, water and cash due to the closure of hotels, shopping malls and ATMs, the parents said that their children are mostly pursuing medical courses at National Medical University in Kharkiv and Kyiv Medical University. The stranded students are from Balasore, Bhadrak, Kendrapara, Rayagada, Nabarangpur, Khurda, Cuttack, Angul, Dhenkanal, Ganjam, Sundargarh and Sambalpur districts, sources said. "The Odisha government has already made a move for the safe evacuation of the students. Our resident commissioner in Delhi is in regular touch with the Ministry of External Affairs,” Chief Secretary S C Mohapatra told PTI.
Stranded students said they have been asked to shift to bomb shelters, and some of them have already left their accommodations for safety. Roshan Behera, a fourth year MBBS student from Kuchinda in Sambalpur district, told an Odia television channel that the bomb shelters are already crammed with locals. She said that some of them were evacuated a couple of days ago, and they are unable to make the homeward journey as the airports are sealed. "We are living under constant fear for life as we have never faced such a situation before. We need to be rescued immediately. Our parents and relatives are constantly calling us to know about the situation here. We don't know for how long they can keep contacting us," she said. Aruna Jyoti Biswal, a resident of Mahanadi Vihar in Cuttack and the mother of final year medical student Aruaman Abhishek, expressed concern for the safety of her son. "He was scheduled to return home on February 26, but is unable to do that due to the cancellation of flights. I appeal to both PM and CM to rescue my son," she added.