Opposition leaders on Wednesday questioned the Union government about the delay in evacuating Indian citizens stranded in war-torn Ukraine.

Several Indians, mostly medical students, are trapped in Ukraine as Russia is pressing on with its invasion of the former Soviet country. Many of them have criticised the Indian government’s rescue efforts and described their ordeal on social media. They have alleged they are being prevented from crossing into neighbouring countries from Ukraine.

On Wednesday, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said that the Union government must share details about the number of students evacuated, those who remained stranded and also a region-wise evacuation plan to avoid “further tragedy”.

“We owe a clear strategy and communication to the families involved,” he said in a tweet.

The Congress has also launched a social media campaign named “Speak Up For Our Students” to ensure the safe return of Indians.

Members of the National Students’ Union of India, the Congress’ students’ wing, staged a protest in support of their demand.

“We will not rest until each one of them is safely returned to our motherland,” the Congress tweeted. “The Modi government must wake up and act now.”

In Kolkata, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that it was the Centre’s responsibility to bring back the stranded students, reported PTI.

“Humanity is more important than politics and the central government should realise this,” she told reporters. “Lives of students are more important than politics.”

Banerjee alleged that India was lagging behind in matters of external affairs due to politics and a gap in coordination, resulting in students being stuck in Ukraine, reported ANI.

“Somebody died, some people are moving from here and there,” she said. “Somebody is waiting in bunkers, somebody is waiting in Romania, somebody is not getting food. They search for food and get killed.”

Banerjee was referring to the death of an Indian student, identified as Naveen Shekarappa Gyanagoudarm. He had died in shelling in Ukraine’s Kharkiv city when he went out to buy groceries.

“When the government was aware of developments, why didn’t they bring the students earlier?” Banerjee asked on Wednesday.

The Shiv Sena said on Tuesday that while the students were in a “tragic state”, the Bharatiya Janata Party was busy with the Assembly elections.

In an editorial published in Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamna, the party said the statements of a Kanpur resident stuck in Poland was “concerning”.

Citing the Kanpur girl, the newspaper said: “The Indian government has done nothing for us. There are no American [United States] citizens stuck in Ukraine because its government had evacuated its citizens safely before the war started. Why couldn’t the Indian government had understood this [evacuating them before the war broke out]?”

The party claimed that only after the outcry against the delay in evacuating citizens grew, the prime minister, the defence minister and others left their campaigns and held high-level meetings.

“Citizens are appealing for help,” it said. “At this time, politics and power should be kept aside and ministers should come forward with a feeling of sacrifice. But the ministers found rallies, roadshows, etc important than the offensive in Ukraine. So, the public has to accept that it is destitute and helpless.”

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.

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

Read the latest developments in Ukraine here