Lucknow: The Yogi Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh government on Friday sent 250 buses to Kota in Rajasthan to bring back over 6,000 students who had been stranded in the city due to the nationwide lockdown.
"So far, over 2,700 students have arrived in Jhansi from Kota in 108 buses," a senior Uttar Pradesh government official told news agency PTI late on Saturday night.
The state government reportedly estimated that around 7,500 students from Uttar Pradesh were living in the city, which is famous for its coaching centres that aid students in admission to various institutions across the country. The students had been stuck in the city after the Union Government announced a country-wide lockdown from March 25, halting movement across state borders.
After reaching their homes, most of the students claimed that they were being treated like “prisoners” in their hostels and paying guest (PG) accommodations. They also alleged that the hostel owners had not given enough food to eat during the period.
Scores of students reached Kidwai Nagar in Kanpur from Kota on Sunday. Avantika, an engineering aspirant who left for Kota three years ago, told NewsClick that their hostels had been turned into “jails” where they were being treated like “prisoners”. “Three days after the lockdown was imposed, the mess was shut down. The only option left for us was ordering for food online, but it used to cost about Rs 200 per person," she said.
Another student, a native of Agra, who had been quarantined along with 29 others at Doon Public School in the city, thanked the state government for sending buses. “We were faced with many challenges after the lockdown was imposed, but after we voiced our problems to the government through Twitter and Facebook, it took cognisance and made arrangements for buses," said Abhishek.
Asked why they preferred to leave for Kota in the first place, a student from Unnao said that there were “no such coaching centres of that standard in my home town and not even in Lucknow,” the student, who returned on Sunday, told NewsClick. NewsClick spoke to over half a dozen students and for all of them, the expensive fees charged by coaching institutes was a small price to pay to fulfill their dreams.
Roop Rekha Verma, a social activist and the former vice-chancellor of Lucknow University, said that she wonders why Kota has become an educational hub since there is no data on its success rate.
However, would the government have been this responsive if the students had not made a ruckus on social media? What about those who cannot?
Taking a jibe at the government for discriminating between students and migrant workers, Verma said that “the state government brought the students back after they made a sound and a noise on Twitter. The government was forced to send buses but since migrant workers cannot raise their voice on social media, so there is no one to pay heed to their problems,” she added.
Re-iterating CM Yogi Adityanath’s assurance that no one would sleep hungry and that essential commodities would be delivered at the doorstep, she said that it was a promise that had not been kept. “Had NGOs not come forward and helped, the situation would be much worse than it is today,” she said.
Brajesh Misra, a senior journalist from Uttar Pradesh, also addressed the duality on Twitter. "The Constitution of India does not allow for discrimination. However, the poor have been shown their place during this pandemic. The latest example is from UP-Rajasthan. Children of the rich study in Kota. Hundreds of buses of the UP Roadways were sent to pick them up today. Who will bring back the poor and migrants who have been stranded?"
Meanwhile, a student who arrived in Ghazipur from Kota by bus, has tested positive for COVID-19. Now, all the students who were with her on the bus, along with the driver, have been quarantined.
It is worth mentioning that more than one lakh students from Jhansi were in Kota, as it is close by. Ironically, the same city is the epicentre of the workers’ migration. The district was witness to the struggles of the migrant workers, but there was no sign of relief.
Abdul Hafiz Gandhi, assistant professor of law at Unity Degree College, said that he was not against bringing the children back from Kota. “What I oppose is the government's discriminatory attitude. If people stranded in Haridwar and Varanasi can be sent to Gujarat and south Indian states in buses, why cannot migrant workers from Uttar Pradesh be brought back from Surat, Mumbai, Delhi and other cities after thermal scanning in special trains and buses. The government must care equally for the rich and poor,” he said.