Education

For the sake of degrees: Din in Delhi, Concern in Kashmir

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Following annulment of medical degrees from Pakistani institutes, New Delhi witnessed student protest over the Beijing block. The protest brought home concerns for many budding Kashmiri doctors.

Being a parent of a student studying Medicine in Pakistan is a big worry for Pervaiz Khan these days. Apart from the new decree and the old hassles for letting his daughter study in the “enemy country”, a long-cherished feeling of a better future got dented when this man in his mid-fifties saw some 200 students from different states of India staging a mass protest at Jantar Mantar on May 29, 2022.

In Delhi’s din triggered by the grounded student flight to Beijing, Khan wondered about the dismissed degree of his daughter.

Students having Pakistani degrees, announced the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the All Indian Council for Technical Education (AICTE) in April 2022, would not be eligible for higher studies or employment in India.

“While these students in Delhi are being disallowed to visit China and that too, at the cusp of their courses, our kids are getting restless over their future due to invalid degrees,” Khan said. “It’s an unprecedented move which is bound to breed more unemployment menace in the region.”

The concern resurfaced following the recent “Chalo Dilli” Pan-India Campaign by students demanding online degree validation, internships and permission to go back to their campuses in China for MBBS studies.

“It’s been more than two years now since I came back from China due to Covid restrictions there,” said Kavita, a student from Kerala. “I don’t think we can learn anything staying at home what we could’ve learnt in the classroom. This has become one of the issues for me as I’m not able to focus on my studies and at the same time I’m more worried about the validation of the degree in the country.”

In Kashmir, Khan’s daughter, who opted for an “affordable” Pakistan-based medical college after failing to qualify the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), has the same concern.

“Pakistan-based medical institutes are affordable option for poor student like me,” said Saiqa, Khan’s daughter. “But now, that option is gone as well. Apart from the grilling and grueling process faced by Kashmiri students studying in Pakistan, this degree dismissing decree has now made it a nightmare for us.”

The brunt is being borne by the poor students, experts in Delhi and Srinagar argue, after Islamabad and Beijing became newfangled nemesis for the government of India in recent times.

While the ‘Pakistani factor’ has become a roadblock in Kashmir, it’s the ‘China element’ that has triggered protest in Delhi.

“Some students are in their last year of the MBBS and are not ensured internships in India which is bothering us a lot about our futures,” said a Manipuri student in Delhi. “If forbidden, we won’t get placements after toiling so hard for this degree for which we took loans and paid hefty fees.”

Like many Kashmiri students, those protesting in Delhi have taken loans for their degrees. And now the same is distressing their parents.

“I don’t know how my kid is going to pay the interest of his education loan now,” said Kulsum Ali, whose son is also studying medicine in Pakistan. “I don’t know why our children are facing hostility between the two nations. Our children are there to study and not for any subversive activities.”

Almost 23,000 Indian students are pursuing MBBS in China, while 100 Kashmiri students annually travel to Pakistan for MBBS courses. Among them 80 per cent are only females.

Sleuths say that around 17 students have joined militancy in Pakistan. Many more, it’s said, might lose their travel documents for using Dubai route to study in Pakistan. But before even indicting Hurriyat leaders for “selling MBBS seats” to students, Islamabad’s gesture to offer 100 scholarships to Kashmiri students was seen as a major boost to the Indo-Pak ties.

Now, when the past has lost its relevance for the present dispensation, Kulsum is getting worried about the mental health of her son, just like a parent of a protesting student in Delhi.

“We as a parent can’t see our children suffer like this,” he said. “The government should take steps to ensure the security of the future of our children.”

But while their parents are getting anxious about their future, some of these distressed students are now leaving Medicine for new careers.

“My two friends have abandoned their medical studies and have chosen different academic courses as we are in a state of a dilemma now,” said Ankit, a protester in Delhi.

Even many Kashmiri parents are mulling to call their wards back from Pakistan for the different academic careers.

“We don’t want our children to suffer due to the existing hostility,” said Tasleema, whose only son is studying Medicine in Pakistan. “We’re calling him back for starting a new and hassle-free academic life. But it’s indeed heartbreaking to see his dream to serve his people back home ending like this.”

 

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