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The Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), the country’s premier journalism school, has asked its students to vacate the hostels by June 3, and advised them to return to their homes amid mounting cases of COVID-19 in the national capital.
The circular, released on Tuesday, May 26, read: “It is the considered opinion of the authorities that the current mode of stay in men’s hostels (in Delhi) on triple sharing basis is not in consonance with safety protocol for Covid-19. As is widely reported the Indian Railway has begun to run special trains and around 200 more trains are going to be started by 1st June. The intra State bus and Taxi Services have also been started by the state governments. Transport arrangements are moreover being made by some state governments for the return of the students of their respective states. Keeping in view the above facts, all the students who are stranded and residing in hostels are hereby advised to return to their hometowns/destinations within a week. Hostel services in all probability will be closed by 3rd of June in all the centres (sic).”
The order maintained that examinations for the final semester and placement interviews will be conducted online. Interestingly, IIMC, a fully funded institution under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, is headed by Press Information Bureau chief Kuldeep Singh Dhatwalia, who has been advising citizens against undesirable movement.
Speaking to NewsClick, hostel residents maintained that the institute has issued an ambiguous order which exposes students to an increased risk of infection. Atul Kumar, a Post Graduate Diploma student in English Journalism, told NewsClick,“I hail from Sonbhadra District in Uttar Pradesh. I really do not know how I will carry six bags of luggage with me in a train journey. I tried booking railway tickets but found no reservation available till June 20. There are no direct trains for Sonbhadra. So, I will have to go to Varanasi and then look for other modes of transport. Even if I get a ticket, it will take me two days to reach home. So, the institute is basically suggesting that I should spend two days travelling during a time of constant risk of infection in trains and other means of transportation,” added Kumar.
He said that the institute is saying that exams will be tentatively conducted online between June 19 and June 25. “I will spend fourteen days in quarantine. It is entirely on the authorities’ discretion whether they grant me home quarantine or send me to a centre. Then, I will be appearing for exams conducted online from a place with which does not have a broadband connection. So, I will be entirely dependent on weak, cellular internet. Had we been granted more days in campus, we could have easily avoided the situation,” he explained.
Bhavani, another student pursuing his P.G. Diploma in Radio and Television Journalism said that the students are being advised to travel against the government’s own guidelines. “I am from Hyderabad and it takes me 26 hours to reach home by train. I cannot go through with it. Even toilets carry the risk of infection. I do not understand the desperation of the institute to vacate the hostels now because they will be vacant for the next three months. Even in these times, the students who left the institute before the lockdown have been told to come to institute on June 1, collect their luggage, and leave on the same day,” he added.
K. Satish Nambudiripad, Additional Director General, IIMC, could not be reached for a comment.