Two-thirds (69%) of college students in Delhi have reported of being “forced” to pay accommodation rent during the COVID-19 induced lockdown that began on March 25, according to the findings of a survey responded by 1,400 people. Among these, 57% responded by saying that they “cannot afford” to meet the rent obligations.
The survey covered samples of tenants in the national capital, a hub of premier educational institutes, and was conducted by the recently formed Student Tenants’ Union Delhi (STUD).
Multiple anecdotal and social media accounts in the past have provided a glimpse of the struggles faced by the students to meet these monthly payments, which were compounded as the lockdown period translated into income-generating economic activities coming to a halt.
The survey substantiates the woes, that have, however, met with only ineffectual responses by both the state and central government.
According to the survey, 28% of the students said that they are being threatened with eviction for non-payment of monthly rents. Another 34% claimed that their houseowners threatened to forfeit the security deposit in absence of rent payment.
Such ultimatums, accompanied by barrage of phone calls, which started in the month of April, have seen a spike, according to STUD – clearly showing that requests for benevolence made by both, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, to the landlords were not enough to address the matter.
As a result, 19% of those surveyed admitted that they are at the risk of dropping out of their colleges and universities if full rent for the period of lockdown is demanded.
The figure is sure to raise eyebrows as it suggests that a ‘dropout’ crisis is brewing, especially in central varsities like Delhi University (DU), which are among the few public funded educational institutes left in the country, accessible to those belonging to economically weaker sections.
Also read:COVID-19: Rift Between Tenants and Landlords Grows as Extended Lockdown Compounds Students’ Woes in Delhi
“We are now seeing that the restrictions are being gradually lifted and yet, the orders issued [relating to rent collection] remain vague. There is no clarity whether a tenant can be evicted or not after the lockdown ends. Rent collection has been deferred or postponed,” Varkey Parakkal, a member of STUD, told NewsClick. Kejriwal on Monday announced relaxations to open the economy as the nation enters fourth phase of lockdown.
However, Parakkal believes, this is exactly when a “tenants-friendly” policy intervention is most needed. “The restrictions may get eased but the risk of infection persists. In such a scenario, a tenant evicted over non-payment of rent will be forced to move around in search of accommodation, which may pose another challenge to the administration,” he said.
This can be stopped through a clear policy that will prove “in the best interest of everyone”, Parakkal added.
STUD has also demanded for a rent “waiver” of at least two months for students during the lockdown period. On Tuesday, a Twitter campaign demanding the same was carried out with the hashtag #NoIncomeNoRent.
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