As Delhi University reopens, its ecosystem revives

Updated on Feb 16, 2022 11:05 AM IST

The campus was shut to students in March 2020 and since then, in-person classes have remained suspended for all undergraduate and postgraduate courses

Students queue outside School of Open learning at North Campus, Delhi University on Tuesday. (Sanchit Khanna/HT Photo)
Students queue outside School of Open learning at North Campus, Delhi University on Tuesday. (Sanchit Khanna/HT Photo)
BySadia Akhtar, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

With colleges and departments of the Delhi University resuming in-person classes from Thursday, various facilities and businesses on North Campus are hoping for a turnaround of fortunes after suffering huge losses for nearly two years when the varsity had remained shut on account of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The campus was shut to students in March 2020 and since then, in-person classes have remained suspended for all undergraduate and postgraduate courses.

As the university throws open its gates on Thursday, life on campus is expected to gradually ease into the normalcy of the pre-Covid days.

In fact, activity on and around the North Campus started picking up over the past few days with students returning to the city following the reopening announcement last week. Owners of popular eateries and photocopier shops to rickshaw pullers, those who depend on students for their livelihood said a full-fledged reopening could pave the way for a revival of business.

On Monday, Hindustan Times visited the North Campus to find it abuzz with activity. People working in and around the university said while most students are expected to return by Thursday, some have already arrived in the city to arrange their accommodation before classes begin.

Rakesh Kumar, 55, who drives a cycle rickshaw near the Vishwa Vidyalaya Metro station, said the resumption of classes was a positive development. Hailing from Uttar Pradesh’s Sitapur, Kumar said the campus closure had hit his earnings as students were his main customer base.

“During the past two years, the area wore a deserted look. Our income was negligible since there was hardly any activity. With colleges reopening, students who are looking for accommodation have started visiting the campus. We are hopeful that work will increase once all students return,” said Kumar.

Amit Kumar, an e-rickshaw driver who hails from Bihar, is banking on the complete reopening of the university for a revival of his fortunes. Kumar worked as a driver with a firm until 2020 when he was laid off by the firm amid the downsizing triggered by the pandemic.

“The situation is bad right now. I struggle to even pay the rent. One can only hope that the situation will change once students return,” said Kumar, who has started ferrying students to various localities in search of accommodation.

The food kiosks peppering the North Campus are also seeing a gradual increase in footfall. “Tom Uncle’s Maggi Point”, a favourite hang-out spot known for its wide variety of Maggi-based dishes, and other popular chat and tea stalls are alive with customers.

“There were hardly any customers these past two years. With students returning to the campus, we hope that business will get back on track,” said Teeran Maurya, a worker at one of the kiosks. The popular bhel puri vendor outside Delhi School of Economics and the food kiosk outside Hindu College have also seen an uptick in business since the beginning of the week.

Other businesses such as bookshops, however, need students to return to the campus for their earnings to increase. Swaran Singh, owner of International Book House on Bungalow Road, said not many students visited the bookstore since 2020. He said booksellers were going through difficult times on account of the closure of the university as well as the push towards online learning. Students, he said, are no longer buying books.

“If they return to classrooms, they might purchase books because teachers will not allow them to use their phones or laptops for accessing reading material. If in-person sessions become regular, our sales might pick up,” said Singh.

Manya Mahajan, a first-year DU student, who was at a printing shop to get a book printed, said she had been using soft copies of books for her online classes. The resumption of classroom sessions motivated her to get those books printed. “During online classes, most of us were using PDFs of various books and study material. Since the university is reopening, I decided to get hard copies for better comprehension,” said Mahajan.

She said while she and the others residing in Delhi are eagerly looking forward to offline classes, her friends from other cities were facing challenges in finding accommodation. “The announcement came at short notice and outstation students didn’t get a chance to make arrangements. I am hoping that they’ll be able to return soon since we have not met our classmates and teachers even once since our course began,” said Mahajan.

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