New Delhi: In an interaction with Indian medical students at Tbilisi in Georgia, visiting Minister of State for External Affairs and Culture Meenakashi Lekhi reassured them of India’s efforts to ensure their well-being.
Lekhi is currently on a three-day visit to Georgia and Kazakhstan to celebrate India’s 30th anniversary of its diplomatic ties with both countries.
“Glad to interact with Indian medical students at Tbilisi State Medical University. Reassured them of the Government of India‘s efforts to ensure their well-being,” Lekhi said on her Twitter handle.
The minister also met Chancellor and acting Rector of the university Prof Zurab Orjonikidze and thanked him for taking care of the students.
Indian medical students constitute a large part of the international student body in Georgia. In Tbilisi State Medical University alone, about 26 per cent of the student body consists of international students.
According to recent estimates, around 2,000 Indian citizens reside in Georgia, almost half of whom are students at the Tbilisi State Medical University. About 200 citizens are employed by Indian companies involved in the infrastructure sector in Georgia, while others are businessmen, agricultural farmers and workers.
Indian students in Georgia have repeatedly called for a resident mission in the country. At present, there is no Indian Resident Mission in Georgia and the ambassador to Armenia with residence in Yerevan is concurrently accredited to Georgia.
Addressing Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Sumanth Reddy, an Indian student from Georgia tweeted this month: “Hello sir, we are medical students from Tbilisi, Georgia… requesting for an Indian embassy here in Georgia, as we are facing many problems, don’t know where to go”.
“I got to know that you have arrived in Tbilisi, since we students have some issues we would (want) to meet you,” Nitish Babu, an Indian citizen studying in Tbilisi State Medical University, had tweeted to External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar during his visit to Georgia in July this year.
Indian students have been making a beeline to Georgian universities because of quality education, low tuition fees, and reasonable cost of living.
A second-year Indian medical student who wishes to remain anonymous said that he picked Tbilisi State Medical University because it is cheaper and is on the list of Indian medical council-approved universities.
According to reports, Indian students also faced Covid-based discrimination when the pandemic broke out with many bearing brunt of travel restrictions.
The Tbilisi-based Tolerance and Diversity Institute said in a statement that “covid regulations enacted by the Georgian government against Indian students are discriminatory and contain signs of corruption as well”.
“Indian students studying in Tbilisi, Georgia are experiencing selective discrimination guidelines. We’ve been told to undergo paid hotel quarantine for 14 days irrespective of vaccination status. This rule only targets Indians and not other students,” Mariam Ansara, a student from Kerala, had tweeted addressing Jaishankar in 2021.
Lekhi also met Georgian Foreign Minister Ilia Darchiashvili and the two officials welcomed the existing partnership in culture and education, with a number of Indian students receiving higher education in Georgian universities.