Delhi University’s decision to vacate hostels with immediate effect has left many students worried amid the coronavirus outbreak. The students allege that the university authorities are forcing them to return to their homes with threats to close down the mess if they fail to comply with the orders.
In its office order, the university said, “hostellers are directed to leave for their home towns at the earliest for their own safety. International students may take decisions in their best interest.” The order further added, “The University of Delhi shall remain closed till 31.3.2020. Staff (teaching and non teaching) should work from home to the extent possible and should remain on telephone and other means of communication. They should attend office, if called for any exigency of work.”
Shravendu Roy, a resident of Mansarovar Hostel in the North Campus, told NewsClick that the university’s decision has exposed them to greater risk of infection amid exorbitant prices. He said, “After the university’s order, the Chief Medical Officer along with the proctor came to hostel to vacate it immediately. Many students who hail from remote areas or who are from marginalised sections are finding it hard to buy tickets worth Rs 18,000-19,000 for which a student would normally pay Rs 3000. They are also saying that they would close the mess facility from Saturday night. When we talked about our limitations, the officials said that the Jawaharlal Nehru University and Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi have already announced the move… We understand the situation but the administration should have given us some time to plan.”
A Kashmiri student told NewsClick, “Given the volatile and tense situation in the valley and increased level of risk of infection during travel, I have decided to stay at a friend’s home, but not all students will have this option. Secondly, prices of flights are shooting up. I checked the cost of a flight to Srinagar and it was around Rs 15,000. How will common students will pay this much money?”
Amisha Nanda, a resident of Ambedkar Ganguly students’ house for women, said, “The students are being advised to reach out to the state bhavans to seek shelter… The administration simply does not want to take responsibility even if we said that we will be imposing self-isolation ourselves.”
Christina Ering, president of North Eastern Students’ House for Women Students Union, said that the girl students of the hostels have been given time till Monday to vacate the hostel. She said, “There are about 50 students who are unable to travel to their homes. Our primary concern is the risk of infection. If one needs to travel to Northeastern states, the students can travel via flights only. Second, there are chances that we might catch the infection during our travel to the airport. Third, the ticket prices are soaring. Then, any passenger needs to land at Guwahati Airport and then travel to their respective states. This journey costs additional money. Most importantly, Northeastern states have, so far, not reported coronavirus cases. So, the students may become carriers of the virus to these states. The region is geographically very diverse and does not have excellent medical facilities. What will we do if we see symptoms of the infection?”
She added, “We wrote a letter to the provost Rita Singh regarding this situation, but she is not paying any heed to our concerns.”
NewsClick tried reaching Rita Singh but was informed that she was away from home and could not respond.
Commenting on the immediate lockdown measures, Pinjra Tod, a students’ collective of girl hostellers said, “Undergraduate Hostel for Girls (UGHG) has threatened the students with shutting down mess facilities effective tomorrow. Hostels that otherwise impose a hostel curfew for ‘safety concerns’ are now forcing students out with no regard for their security and well being. Instead of ensuring that adequate preparations are in place for ensuring social distancing, basic quarantine and medical facilities for students, universities have shifted the burden on the students to fend for themselves. Making travel arrangements at such short notice is not an option for outstation students from marginalised backgrounds. Additionally, they carry the risk of being carriers of the virus to their respective states.”
In a statement, the group added, “During a time when collaboration and collective efforts are required to handle this medical emergency, the university—much like the healthcare sector—is prioritising profits over the well-being of all the stakeholders. We demand that Higher Educational Institutions take responsibility for the well being of all constituents of the University through the duration of this pandemic!”