Union Minister Pralhad Joshi’s comments on students studying abroad “after failing to qualify” in competitive exams in India drew a sharp response from the grieving father of Naveen Shekharappa Gyanagowdar, who was killed in Russian shelling in Ukraine’s Kharkiv.
Naveen, 21, was an intelligent student who simply could not afford to study medicine in India and so went to Ukraine, said his father Shekharappa Gyanagoudar, speaking to NDTV at his home in Karnataka’s Chalageri.
“No talented person should be born to a poor family. There is no value for talent in our country…no value for talent,” his mother Vikayalakshmi wept.
Pralhad Joshi, the Parliamentary Affairs Minister, had made the controversial statement in response to a question on Indian students studying in Ukraine. More than 9,000 have been flown back as Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine, but tens of thousands remain in cities like Kyiv and Kharkiv, waiting for a chance to escape while hiding in bunkers, underground metro stations and basements.
“Ninety per cent of Indians who study medicine abroad fail to clear qualifying exams in India,” Mr Joshi told reporters on Tuesday, but added that it was “not the right time to debate why students are moving out to study medicine”.
He also said those who completed their medical degree abroad had to pass the Foreign Medical Graduates Examination to practise in India.
The minister was silent yesterday when asked whether he would retract the comments or apologise to the family.
The remarks have landed in the middle of an intense debate on social media over those “unable to clear” the all-India medical entrance exam going to Ukraine. Many argued that India does not have enough medical seats to accommodate all deserving candidates.
Reacting to the minister’s comment, Naveen’s father said: “The donation is very high for those wanting to study medicine here. Intelligent students will go abroad to study, and they spend a lesser amount when compared to Karnataka. Here, a student will have to pay in crores to get a medical seat under quota.”
Naveen secured 97 per cent in his school exams, Mr Gyanagowda pointed out.
Siddappa, a relative of Naveen, said since the family had financial constraints, Ukraine was among the more viable options before the family.
The family did not want to “buy a management quota seat”. But all family members pooled in money to send Naveen to Ukraine so he could chase his dream of becoming a doctor.
Vijaylakshmi said colleges had asked for crores of rupees. “Here they asked for a lump sum as donation… We don’t have crores of rupees. In Ukraine, it costs around Rs 50-60 lakh. On that hope, he was sent to Ukraine. He has talent and so he went to Ukraine. Otherwise, why would we sent him there ? We could have made him stay back and rest cattle or agriculture?” she said.
Naveen knew early that he wanted to take up medicine, but he couldn’t get admission, he said. “Since the medical seat under management quota is very expensive here, he chose to pursue MBBS in Ukraine for much less money. Naveen took the decision to study in Ukraine. We all contributed money to send him to Ukraine,” said his cousin Siddappa.
That dream was abruptly cut short yesterday when Naveen was killed in Russian bombing while buying food supplies in Kharkiv.