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Students recount ordeal in Russia

By K. Manikandan

CHENNAI, OCT. 31. Three students, who went to study medicine in St. Petersburg, Russia, have returned after a harrowing time.

D. Sujay of Chennai, Cyril. P, and D. Frank of Arakkonam got admission to the First Year MBBS course at the St. Petersburg I.I. Mechnikov State Medical Academy. Their admission was arranged through a popular educational consultant at Alwarpet.

Sujay (19), belonging to T. Nagar, said they reached Moscow on October 13 and their ordeal started immediately. He said a coordinator took them to St. Petersburg, more than 600 km from Moscow. "He demanded 2,000 roubles for the train journey, three times the actual fare of 675 roubles," he said.

Though the consultant promised to look after their food and accommodation, as agreed on, the three were stranded when they reached the Academy's hostel. "We were put inside a cramped room that was cold and dingy. We were forced to sleep on the carpet in a room that did not have proper beds and mattresses and heating systems when the temperature was freezing," Sujay said.

Harassed by Indians

Sujay said that he and the two other boys from Arakkonam were harassed by some senior students, all of them Indian. He said as long as he was in the Academy, he did not attend class for even one day. "For several days, we survived on just a couple of slices of bread until a friendly senior offered food, that too after midnight."

His mother said that soon after Sujay reached the institute, he called up home up to say that conditions in the hostel were horrible. "What upset us was that while staff at the consultants said the students were safe, my son called up and said his life was in danger," she said.

Threatened at airport

Frank's father, a government servant, said minutes before they boarded the flight to Moscow at the Delhi airport, the boys were forced to carry a package. An airline employee threatened my son in front of us, saying he would make sure that he did not board the flight, if he did not do so, he said.

"We did not know what the package contained. It could have contained anything that could have landed the boys in trouble," he said. Further, a coordinator in St. Petersburg, Rakesh, demanded a commission from the boys while they were leaving.

However, parents of Frank and Sujay managed to contact their friends in Moscow who helped in sending the students back to India.

A representative of the educational consultants said they had sent more than a dozen students to the same institute, but none of them had complained. However, they would look into the matter thoroughly, the representative said, adding they also took strenuous efforts to arrange for the return journey of the three boys. "We have not met the boys and their parents after their return and hope to do so immediately," he said.

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