With return to India of students from Sumy, Op Ganga would be over

New Delhi, March 9 : The 500-odd Indian students evacuated from Sumy have reached Lviv near the western Ukrainian border and will be reaching Poland by train for being airlifted to India as part of Operation Ganga, sources said on Wednesday. With the evacuation to India of the students from Sumy tomorrow evening, the Indian government will close Operation Ganga as there will be very few Indians left to bring back, the sources added. For chartering a special flight at least 150 people would be needed, and that figure is unlikely to be there after the Sumy students return. The Indian students, along with around 20 Indian nationals who were living and working in Sumy, left on 10 buses, organised by the Ukrainian government. Some foreign nationals were also brought out, including a Bangladeshi national and some from other countries, the sources added. The Indian students brought out from Sumy were to be taken to Poltava directly, but due to the intense fighting going on, their buses were taken by a circuitous route to Lokhvytsia. The Ukrainian government organised a train to take them to Lviv, the sources added. The evacuation of Indian nationals from Sumy and Pisochyn were the most challenging, especially from Sumy, the sources said, adding that PM Modi’s speaking with the leadership of Russia and Ukraine directly on the issue was “most helpful”. On bringing back the body of Indian student Naveen Gyanagoudar who was killed in Kharkiv, the sources said that it is still lying in the morgue in the Ukrainian city, and they are looking at options to bring it back. However, the body of Chandan Jindal, who died of natural causes, is being brought out, the sources added. The MEA had three teams on the ground to coordinate the evacuation, including a team of Joint Secretaries who were stationed near the border at Belgorod and another place on the border with Russia. The ministry sent 50-55 officers and staff to strengthen its embassies in the neighbouring countries, choosing Russian speaking “outstanding officers” who took decisions on the spot, the sources added. The ministry also put 100 people in shifts to man the control room in Delhi. One difficulty the Indian missions faced was that many students did not have their documents, or the Schengen visa that is required to cross the border. The Indian Embassy teams in those countries spoke with the officials there, after which the Indians were allowed to cross the border. The sources said that the MEA teams were in close touch with the student contractors and coordinating every move with them. “We spoke to them and their presence on the ground was very useful, liaising on the ground. We ran shelters on the border areas with the host governments, and civil society organisations, volunteers,” the source said. Around 22,000 Indians have left Ukraine so far since the first advisory was issued in January this year. RN

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