The Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) and the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) have assured to extend all help to Afghan students stranded in India or Afghanistan which is currently facing a political crisis, officials said here on Saturday.
SPPU Vice-Chancellor N.R. Karmalkar announced a special helpline (020-25621938), in addition to NGO Sarhad's WhatsApp helpline (0-8007066900) for Afghan students across Maharashtra.
NGO Sarhad's President Sanjay Nahar along with a group of Afghan students met N.R. Karmalkar, who discussed their issues with ICCR President Vinay Sahasrabuddhe.
The ICCR Head spoke on concall with the V-C and a few of the Afghan students' representatives, and spelt out the various measures the Central government is taking to ensure no student misses an academic year.
"All efforts are underway to help those students who have taken admission in Indian universities or have submitted passports for India visas in Afghanistan. The officials concerned in the Ministry of External Affairs are in touch with the authorities concerned at all levels," Nahar told IANS after the meeting.
The Indian government has said it will help not only those students coming here through ICCR scholarships but also others wanting to pursue academics in the country through self-finance modes.
Sarhad has announced its readiness to 'adopt' 1,000 stranded students by bearing all their lodging, boarding, fees and other expenses till the situation in Afghanistan normalises.
Even the SPPU authorities have decided to chip in by offering all help, including accommodation facilities to the students, according to Nahar.
At a meeting on Friday, the V-C and Pro V-C, N. S. Umrani had readily agreed to help all past and present students while Management Council member Sanjay Pandey would take up the issue with the Union Minister for External Affairs, S. Jaishankar.
On its part, Sarhad has started coordination efforts with various Sikh, Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim organisations and educational institutions to help them out in the humanitarian efforts.
An estimated 11,000 Afghan students, including nearly 35 per cent women, study in colleges and universities across India with the largest chunk of nearly 5,000 in Maharashtra, according to Umrani.
They include nearly 3,000 in Pune, 700 in Mumbai and the rest scattered in other cities, though the ICCR data shows less than 2,500 students here on government scholarships.
A majority of the students in the state, including nearly 600 girls, with self-finance face common problems of expired or soon-to-lapse Indian visas, no contacts with families back in Afghanistan as banking and diplomatic channels are shut, due rentals and money for food, college fees or other routine expenses.