Amid the scramble to evacuate Indians – many of them medical students – from Ukraine, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday urged the private sector to invest in the field of medical education.

While addressing a webinar on Union Budget allocations in the health sector, Modi said: “Our children are going to small countries for study, especially in medical education. Language is a problem there. They are still going…”

He then urged the private enterprises to “enter the field in a big way” and asked state governments to frame land allotment policies aligned to their needs.

Thousands of Indian students have been stranded in Ukraine since the Russian invasion began on Thursday. Hours after Modi’s speech, the first batch of evacuees landed in Mumbai on Saturday evening. However, the majority of nearly 20,000 Indians are still stuck in Ukraine, or are in the process of evacuation, NDTV said.

About 18,000 of them medical students who are in the country because medical college there is cheaper than India’s private institutions, according to NDTV.

A Delhi-based doctor whose son is studying medicine in the country told The Indian Express that the annual fees of the four-and-a half year medical course is Rs 4 lakh to Rs 5 lakh in Ukraine, while in India it could go up to Rs 12 lakh.

Besides, the number of seats for medical courses is also higher in Ukraine than in India, according to the newspaper.

Medical degrees earned in Ukraine are internationally recognised, including by global bodies such as the World Health Organization and the European Union, NDTV reported. Ukraine offers the option of permanent residency in Europe after completing the course.