Maha NGO seeks PM's nod to 'adopt' 1,000 stranded Afghan students
By Quaid Najmi
ArrayMumbai, Aug 20 (IANS) In a first of its kind humanitarian gesture, a Maharashtra NGO has sought permission from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to 'adopt' around 1,000 stranded Afghan students who are in dire straits after the Taliban takeover of their motherland, here on Friday.
In a letter to the PM, NGO Sarhad's President Sanjay Nahar, Working President Surendra Wadhwa and Chief Organiser Santsingh Mokha narrated the plight of the young students in Pune, Mumbai, other parts of the state and rest of India.
"Since the Afghan issue has become explosive and internationally 'politically sensitive', we cannot undertake the task without the Indian government's permission and selection of the needy Afghan students," Nahar told IANS.
Sarhad has immediately collaborated with the 'Shri Guru Teghbahadurji 400th Prakash Purab-2021 Committee' and is in talks with Jain, Buddhist and Muslim groups to help in the noble cause, with a government representative helping identify the needy youngsters, he added.
"We have decided to launch the initiative with 50 needy students in Pune right away, the rest we shall take up after the Centre's signal and participation of other religious and educational groups," Nahar assured.
Through the initiatives, Sarhad and other groups-educational institutions will provide the full lodging, boarding, financial help with fees and other requirements of these students till the situation in Afghanistan normalizes.
A delegation met Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) Vice-Chancellor Dr N.R. Karmalkar, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Dr N.S. Umrani and a Management Council Member Rajesh Pandey to discuss the woes of the Afghan students studying in the varsity.
The VC and PVC have readily agreed to help all the past and present students, ensure nobody forfeits an academic year, will launch a special helpline on Sunday and extend all other cooperation, while Pandey will raise the issue with the Minister for External Affairs S. Jaishanker, said Nahar.
Afghani students heaved a sigh of relief after the positive SPPU meeting and the upcoming help from the NGOs, even as diplomatic and other regular channels remain practically shut since a week now.
Afghan Students Association of Pune (ASAP) President Wali R. Rahmani and ASAP girls' coordinator Farzana Amiri termed the Sarhad move "as extremely positive and would boost the morale of the Afghani students stuck here with limited resources".
"Our priority is for those students whose visas have expired or on verge of expiry, bringing back those who had gone to Afghanistan, and arranging finances since they have to pay for their food, rentals and other things," Rahmani.
Amiri said around 600 girls studying in SPPU, a majority on self-finance and a few sponsored by the Indian government, are badly hit and require urgent assistance since all banking activities are closed in Afghanistan.
"Now, there'a a ray of hope for all of us with the Sarhad initiatives and we feel more confident to face the current crises," she (Amiri) said.
Around 11,000 Afghan students, including around 35 per cent women, study in colleges and universities across India, with the largest chunk of around 5,000 in Maharashtra, according to Rahmani.
They include around 3,000 in Pune, 700 in Mumbai and the rest scattered in other cities, though the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) data shows less than 2,500 students here on government scholarships.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at: [email protected])