Students aspiring to study abroad are also forced to shelve their plans for now.(Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Students aspiring to study abroad are also forced to shelve their plans for now.(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Hit hard by lockdown, Ludhiana’s IELTS, visa consultants seek relief from rent

Urge the government to provide relief to them by directing their premises landlords to charge only 50% of the total rent for this year
Hindustan Times, Ludhiana | By Harvinder Kaur, Ludhiana
PUBLISHED ON MAY 27, 2020 09:14 PM IST

Impacted by the Covid-19 lockdown, owners of International English Language Testing System (IELTS) coaching centres and visa consultancy firms here have urged the government to provide relief to them by directing their to charge only 50% of the total rent for this year.

There are around 750 IELTS and visa consultancy firms in the district, most of them located in Model Town Extension, Feroze Gandhi Market, near the ISBT, Sector 32, Khanna, Doraha, Samrala and Macchiwara.

Recently, these centres and firms, attached to the Study Abroad Association, gave a memorandum to deputy commissioner Pradeep Kumar Agrawal in this regard and the DC recommended the memorandum to the chief minister’s office.

The coaching centres, that prepare around 35,000 to 40,000 candidates to go abroad every year, are located in the prime locations of the city with a monthly rent of Rs 1 lakh to Rs 2.5 lakh. With no income, the firms are only buying time from landlords to pay rent.

President of the association Mitesh Malhotra, who runs seven IELTS and visa consultancy centres in Ludhiana, said the period between April and September was peak season, when a majority of aspirants joind universities or colleges abroad, while in January, there are primarily those applicants, who could not clear IELTS in the first round or didn’t get admission for other reasons.

“Even if we start IELTS classes by June or July-end with 30% of the total capacity, only 1/4 of the students of the total average of 40,000 annually will be able to go abroad in the January intake and the commission, that we will get from the universities for January intake, will arrive by April next year,” he said.

Criticising the government for not supporting coaching and consultancy establishments at this time, Malhotra said while the government holds NRI sammelans (congregations) to appreciate the contribution made by NRIs for the development of the state, they have no regard for the establishments, that help in making these people NRIs.

“We coach and help so many people to go abroad for studies. Coaching and consultancy centres have always played a big role in providing quality life to many Punjabis, who have settled abroad, but the government never thinks of announcing any relief for us,” he said.

Gagneet Singh Grewal, who runs a visa-cum-consultancy centre in the Ferozepur Gandhi Market, said, “If the government fails to curb the spread of coronavirus, some countries might not allow the migration of Indians due to which many students, who had earlier planned to study abroad, might decide to pursue their graduation here.”

As the nationwide lockdown is expected to end on May 31, the centres have requested the government to allow them to function with full strength from June.

“Even if the government allows us to resume operations with 30 to 50% of the total strength, it will not be beneficial for us as we have to increase staff strength for teaching the students in different batches, pay them salaries, GST, electricity bills and also monthly rent. Considering our plight, the government should let us function fully by next week,” said Mittal, managing director of visa consultancy-cum-IELTS centre, based in the Model Town market

ASPIRANTS UNCERTAIN, BUT HOPEFUL

NIneteen-year-old Dimple, a resident of the Jalandhar Bypass area, who had enrolled abroad for electrical engineering, said things didn’t go as per her plan, but she had not lost hope yet. “My maternal uncle is based in Canada. I keep taking an update from him about the situation there. I will take up a job in the city till the situation,” she said.

Lakhwinder Singh, 21, a resident of Jagraon, who had planned to go to Canada for pursuing his degree in designing by September, said considering the uncertain scenario due to Covid-19, he had decided to apply for the refund of college fee and postpone his plan for moving abroad till next year.

“My parents are also concerned and don’t want me to go this year. Till the situation normalises, I will help my father in his business, but I won’t take admission here. I’m determined to complete my higher studies in Canada,” he said.

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