Lucknow: For the last two days, over a hundred students of the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) have been protesting inside the campus, after the administration asked students who have been stranded in university hostels to vacate their rooms and leave for their homes. According to the university administration, BHU and several areas near the campus have been declared COVID-19 hotspots.
In a notice, the university said that the Chief Proctor and hostel provosts would arrange for their transportation as per the travel protocols in their respective home states.
However, agitating students said that the BHU administration suddenly issued a notice to all students asking them to vacate the hostel within 48 hours. When the students refused to obey the order, mentioning that travelling may increases their chances of contracting the virus and spreading it, all rooms in the Ruiya hostel were locked by the proctorial team and students were forced to come out on the roads.
Terrified of Quarantine
Vivek Kumar, a master's student of political science at BHU, said that on May 19, the BHU administration issued an advisory stating that as per guideline received from the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the Ministry of Human Resources and Development (MHRD), no educational activity of any kind will take place in the university before July 1. The advisory is said to have added that those students who had stayed back and were still in the hostels can vacate them within 48 hours. "The MHRD guidelines that the BHU administration is referring to clearly mentions ‘wish to move’. It means those who wish to go home on their own accord can be let go. It clearly implies that the administration can send students home only with their consent, but we were neither contacted, nor was our consent taken," Vivek added.
A third-year student at BHU’s Pt. Brajnath Hostel said the students were apprehensive about travelling, and feared contracting the novel coronavirus. “We are also afraid that once we reach our states, we will get stuck in quarantine facilities where there are no proper arrangements of food and medication,” he told NewsClick, adding that students who had still not got the disease may contract it at the quarantine centre.
Around 200 students are currently staying in the 12 hostels on the university campus. The other students had vacated their rooms when the Janta Curfew (March 22) was announced in March.
Murari Kumar Singh, another masters student of BHU, told NewsClick that those who protested against the administration were “forcefully shifted to an under-construction building that was being purposed for a boys hostel. The Chief Proctor is putting pressure on us to shift into the same hostel. It lacks even a toilet, and in addition, there is water scarcity as well. Aside from these students, the NDRF team is also staying in the same building. How would social distancing be followed in such a small space?" Singh asked.
When asked why the students do not want to go home, he said that the way the number of cases are increasing due to “migrants workers returning to their states, we cannot remain untouched by the pandemic if we go to our hometown," he added, citing poor facilities at quarantine centres.
Students also wrote to BHU's Vice Chancellor Rakesh Bhatnagar and the MHRD, saying they feared for their safety if forced to travel. They also argued that they did not want to get stuck at quarantine centres after reaching their respective states.
NewsClick reached out to BHU’s Chief Proctor Prof. O.P. Rai to hear his side of the story. "We are trying to keep our students safe as the two nearby places (Naria and Seer Goverdhanpur) are in the red zone. BHU hospital also treating COVID-19 patients and students may contract the virus as a result. It is why the administration wants to send them home,” he told NewsClick.
When told that the students were afraid to be quarantined due to the number of COVID-19 cases increasing, he said that students would be in home quarantine and will not be sent to centres.