Mission unclear: Study abroad, at your own risk
A Bill, the government is now planning to introduce in Parliament, punishes cheat education agents, but at present, students are at the mercy of shady agents — with no mechanism to sieve out the good ones from the fraudulent agents. Charu Sudan Kasturi reports. 2 radio tagged students sent to detention centredelhi Updated: Feb 02, 2011 08:04 IST
Panipat-based Rohit Kalra remembers the day his friends and he approached the Indian High Commission in Canberra, Australia to complain about how a flying training academy had duped them with false claims.
The students eventually received assistance from the High Commission, but only after hours of explanation and verification. “The officials wanted to help but appeared clueless. They needed help before they could help us,” Kalra recalled.
In Canberra and in cities across the globe, Indian embassy officials are working practically blindfolded as they attempt to help students, because of the absence of any details of the country’s students studying in each country.
A Bill, the government is now planning to introduce in Parliament, punishes cheat education agents, but at present, students are at the mercy of such agents — with no mechanism to sieve out the good ones from the fraudulent agents.
The absence of the data — which is available with each individual country because it issues student visas — prevents them from proactively assisting Indian students abroad, officials across several embassies and consulates have complained to HT.
“We conduct interaction programmes with students and react based on anecdotal information, but cannot contact our own students unless they reach out to us,” an official at one of consulates of the Indian High Commission in the US said, speaking strictly on condition of anonymity. In effect, the Indian embassies are left waiting for a crisis to erupt and students to approach then, the official said.
“Had such information —names, contact details, institutions they are to study in — been available, we in the embassy would ourselves have been able to alert students of fraud in at least some cases,” said an official involved with the Indian High Commission in Australia in 2009 when several Indian students faced race attacks and fraud from educational institutions.
“Much of what happened in Australia and what has now happened in California could have been avoided,” the official added.
Students at present invariably turn to the education agents who helped them reach abroad, when they are in trouble, even though the agents may have contributed to the fraud, officials said.
‘Radio-collars like Indian anklets’
As the government entrusted foreign secretary Nirupama Rao to discuss issues in education sector with US, an American diplomat compared radio-collaring to silver anklets Indian women wear. “They are very hep because many of our movie stars and celebrities choose the anklets than sitting in a red jumpsuit in prison.” Juliet Wurr, who handles public affairs at US Consulate Hyderabad, said.
She also compared the radio collars to the anklets that Indian women wear. Wurr was asked to retract her statement.