Srinagar: Kashmiri students, who were flown in from Iran and quarantined at Jaisalmer city of Rajasthan,feel more vulnerable to COVID-19 disease in the facility due to official apathy, their worries compounded due to uncertainty about their test results.
Ansab, a medical student in Iran, who arrived in India on March 15, says she is restless in the Jaisalmer facility with each passing day due to official apathy. She says they were put into quarantine for 14 days and now it has been close to 20 days.
"No one is telling us anything, it seems like we have just been isolated and we are not even being told about our test results. Are we positive or are we negative," she says.
The fear of being confirmed positive is not confined to Ansab. There are many other Kashmiri students in the facility who are losing sleep due to lack of information about their tests and the details of their travel to home. Ansab blames this uncertainty on the fact that the authorities did not isolate different people in the quarantine facility. "We are not just students here. There are pilgrims from Qom, Iran, as well and some of them have tested positive," she adds.
The MBBS student added that there were just two washrooms for 20 people who have been kept in a single hall, which is part of a bigger block. There is a single eating place. There are multiple blocks like this. "There were at least six people from Maharashtra who tested positive in one block, which has only increased our fears," she adds.
There are around 170 Kashmiris in the Jaisalmer quarantine facility, of which more than 100 are students in Iran. After the worldwide outbreak of novel coronavirus or COVID-19, Iran became one of the worst hit countries, where more than 3,000 people have died due to the disease.
The Indian government evacuated nearly 300 students after March 14 from the country and, as a precautionary measure, the evacuees were isolated for 14-days at an Army Wellness Centre in Jaisalmer under medical supervision.
The students, however, are worried that those who escaped the outbreak in Iran by taking precautions have become vulnerable in these facilities due to the mix-up of different risk groups.
"We landed on March 14 from Delhi, from where we were taken to Jaisalmer. There was no segregation of pilgrims and students. We were all put up together. We all knew that since the pilgrims came directly from Qom, there was a high possibility of them being carriers of the virus. So we requested the authorities to quarantine us separately, but they didn't listen to us," another medical student told NewsClick.
They said the authorities told them that since the blocks were separate even if anyone was tested positive on 14th day, only that respective block would get quarantined, and the others won't have to stay.
"Now they are imposing new rules, saying that we all will have to stay for more days, and they are also holding our results back. We literally begged them to let us know our results. It is frustrating to face all this. All we want to know is when can we go back home," a fourth year medical student, who wished to remain anonymous, said.
Officials in the J&K administration, however, told NewsClick that the delay in the transfer of Kashmiris was due to the nationwide lockdown during which even inter-state travel was suspended. "We are in touch with the authorities in Rajasthan and other regions as well, but we will have to wait for some time until we deal this issue," a senior government official said.
While the authorities claim they are trying to deal with the issue without creating "unnecessary panic", the students in the Jaisalmer facility and their families back home, are reeling under panic and duress in the wake of the crisis.