Estimates provided by the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) indicate, there are 2,164 Afghan students in India under it schemes. Out of these, 1,722 Afghan students are physically present and studying in India while 442 students are studying online from outside India, mostly in Afghanistan. Of the 1,722 students, 373 students would have completed their courses by September 2021.
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“The current issues involve extension of Indian visas for Afghan students who have/are completing their courses this year. The ICCR has approached the relevant ministries and agencies for guidance on policy level issues (especially visa extension) for the scholars from Afghanistan. If students of Afghanistan studying under ICCR scholarships in the Indian academic institutions are given admission for a new term, the Council could consider giving them scholarships, to the extent feasible,” says a senior ICCR official.
He adds that students from Afghanistan under the ongoing ICCR Scholarship schemes, whose courses continue on-campus here and who are present in India, are covered by the extant norms till the duration of their courses. “Students from Afghanistan under the current ICCR Scholarships (including those for the new academic year 2021-2022) and who are currently not in India, are eligible to join their on-campus courses, if operational,” he adds.
Help at hand
At IIT-Delhi, a helpline number was set up as a single point of contact for its 16 Afghan students pursuing master’s and doctoral programmes who have been taking online classes due to the ongoing pandemic. “The helpline aims to destress the students and others of their ilk who are keen to enrol for our institute’s programmes. Queries on IIT Delhi’s course offerings, scholarships and whether they can defer their programmes of study are also being addressed,” says Naveen Garg, dean of Alumni Affairs and International programmes, IIT Delhi.
Admission deadline for international students – offered full scholarship for the PhD programmes – has also been relaxed. The portal has been reopened for Afghan students to seek admission any time they want. Faculty members have been instructed to process their applications on a priory basis, though the academic criteria will not be relaxed, Garg says. The institute has received close to 20 applications for PhD programmes, and admissions are being conducted on a rolling basis. “Of the 16 Afghan students enrolled for online classes, nine have applied for e-visas that the Indian government has announced for Afghan nationals. IIT-Delhi has written to the Ministry of External Affairs to speed up the visa processing for students to arrive on campus and take in-person classes,” Garg adds.
Prioritising visa processing
At IIT Roorkee, 83 international students who have completed their vaccination have been invited in the last month. Among these, 30 are from Afghanistan. “We have forwarded these names to the sponsoring agencies and the Indian embassy for processing their visa, says P Arumugam – Dean of International Relations – IIT Roorkee where all the Afghan students are admitted through government agencies with fellowships. Of the 44 registered Afghan students, four students are residing at the campus.
“Since the sponsoring agency will pay their tuition fee, hence the students studying remotely will not have to pay any fee now,” Arumugam explains, adding that discounts and fee waivers are available for students admitted through the Study in India programme even though eligibility criteria have not been relaxed.
Eager to return
At Lovely Professional University (LPU), the close to 175 Afghan students studying at LPU had gone back to Afghanistan because of Covid. “LPU is conducting the online classes for all its students hence these students were attending their classes online from Afghanistan. However, all the students want to return back to the campus, though the visa challenges as well as the non-availability of flights, have made it impossible for them to return,” says Aman Mittal, additional director and head of Division of International Affairs, at Lovely Professional University. He addsthatLPU has extended the deadline for the Afghan students to pay their fees. “We are also helping them with psychological support if they are able to connect to their HODs and our international office,” he concludes.
Stay In India
Colive, a prop-tech platform for rental accommodation, has recently launched #CoLiveAndLetLive to offer 100 Stay Scholarships for Afghan students stranded in India. Thesestudents have to complete an online application form, submit a 30-second video, along with all KYC documents, including FRRO registration and a bonafide college certificate, to apply for this scholarship. Students can stay rent free in any of the platform’s properties spread across Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai and Pune for the current semester or until December 31, 2021.
So far 15 applications have poured in, and five Afghan students have moved into the property in Bengaluru. With the threat of bank accounts being frozen and limited contact with family back home, the students are being offered the scholarship to mitigate their financial woes. Suresh Rangarajan, founder & CEO, Colive informs that Afghan students, especially in Bangalore, have started availing of the scheme.