Students of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi who have been staying outside the university’s campus have written a letter to the Vice Chancellor, asking for permission to return. The students are anxious due to a lack of food and medical supplies amid the increasing number of coronavirus cases in the capital. They maintain that a lack of clarity from the administration and the sudden announcement of a nationwide lockdown left them with few options, and that the experience has turned into a nightmare for some.
Naveen Kumar, an M.A. Philosophy student, told NewsClick that the administration’s move for a complete shutdown on the day of the Janta Curfew (March 22) forced students to take refuge outside the campus. He said that a notice by the administration had informed students that the mess facility would be unavailable. “So, many students moved outside the campus to their friends’ or relative’s homes. I had a train ticket but that was cancelled as well. My friend suggested that I stay in Chhatarpur with him as it was a matter of few days but more than 50 days have already passed,” said Naveen.
Naveen added that he was running out of money and that he could not ask his parents since they hardly made much from farming. “I went to the university gate and pleaded with the guards for hours but they turned me away. When I started to contact other hostel residents for details of the stranded students, I heard distressing accounts from students who were contemplating suicide as they were helpless, stranded and hopeless. Finally, we wrote to the Sub-Divisional Magistrate to facilitate our return to the campus safely,” he said.
Aparna, a PhD student at the Centre for Media Studies said that she has been stranded at a friend’s home in Dwarka in North-West Delhi and is awaiting instructions from the university. “I came here after students were told to vacate the campus prior to the declaration of the lockdown. I hardly had any money with me and my father does not know how to use internet banking services. The lockdown rules are quite stringent in my hometown. We are now running out of money and there is nobody around to help us,” she added.
Responding to the students’ distress calls, Sub-Divisional Magistrate Sonalika Jiwani wrote a letter to the JNU Vice-Chancellor. “It’s to inform that several emails have been received in this office from the students of JNU regarding denied of entry into the campus due to fear of COVID-19 infection. Students have also informed that they are facing difficulties as their money have exhausted and requested their entry into the campus to stay in their respective allotted hostels...Keeping in view the severity of the situation, JNU may approach the district surveillance officer for medical screening of the students who are willing to enter the campus to avoid hardships to them at this critical juncture (sic),” the letter said.
Jawaharlal Nehru University Students' Union (JNUSU) President Aishe Ghosh appealed to the administration as well, saying that the university was a residential campus with research scholars. “We appeal to you to allow students stranded in the Delhi-NCR region to return to their hostels after proper screening for COVID-19 infection. As a further precautionary step, students who are allowed to return can be prescribed self-quarantine for the appropriate amount of time,” she said.