Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi on Monday claimed that about “90% of Indians who study medicine abroad fail to clear qualifying exams in India”, reported The Times of India.

However, he added that it was not the “right time to debate why students are moving out to study medicine”.

Students who complete Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery or MBBS degree abroad need to pass the Foreign Medical Graduates Examination to practise as doctors in India.

His comments came as thousands of Indian students, mostly those studying medicine, are trapped in Ukraine as Russia is pressing on with its invasion of the country. A large number of students go to Ukraine from India to study because it is cheaper to pursue medical education there. Besides, the number of seats for medical courses is also higher in Ukraine than in India.

On February 26, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also expressed concern about Indian students going abroad to study. “Our children are going to small countries for study, especially in medical education,” Modi had said. “Language is a problem there. They are still going…”

He urged the private sector to invest in the field of medical education.

On Monday, Joshi also said that India has deployed additional staff at its embassies to ensure that Indian citizens return safely from Ukraine.

The minister also dismissed rumours that Indians were being targeted in Ukraine as India had abstained from voting at the United Nations Security Council. He said that the government was yet to verify such reports.

Joshi, however, admitted that students were facing trouble in Ukraine and were unable to get food and water.

“We are in touch with the Ukraine government and Russia daily basis, and we will soon bring all students back home,” he said.

Earlier in the day, the Union Ministry of External Affairs had said that an Indian student died in shelling in Ukraine’s second-largest city Kharkiv. Hours before that, the Indian embassy in Ukraine issued an advisory, asking citizens stranded in Kyiv to “urgently” leave through trains or any other available means.

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