University hostellers struggle under lockdownUpdated: Mar 26, 2020 11:23 IST
Students in university hostels in the Capital are facing several challenges amid the lockdown in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak.
While some complained about food shortage and hostility on the part of the administration, the institutes say they are doing their best.
All universities in Delhi had earlier asked hostellers to vacate their rooms. While most students had left for their homes, some could not due to the travel restrictions.
In Jamia Millia Islamia, hostellers said the administration made them sign an undertaking declaring that they, the hostellers, would be responsible for their stay. There are around 300 students living in seven hostels of Jamia presently.
The undertaking read, “I am staying in the hostel till March 31, 2020, on my own. I also undertake that my local guardians/ parents are responsible for my treatment due to any medical emergency ...”
Students called this “hostile”.
A hostel resident in Jamia said, “Now the lockdown time has further increased. We will have to stay for long. Most of us do not have any local guardian here. What will we do in case anything happens to our health in the meantime?”
The administration also offered to arrange buses with curfew passes for them to head for their homes.
A resident of Jamia’s Allama Iqbal hostel, requesting anonymity, said, “We do not feel safe to travel at this time by any means. Being forced to sign the undertaking is a hostile measure during a global emergency.”
Jamia spokesperson Ahmed Azeem said, “We are not going to force anyone (out of the hostel). We asked them to sign the undertaking because many of them did not leave even after issuing prior notice.”
At Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), there are about 800 students staying in its 18 hostels now, but food is being served in only five hostel mess halls.
“Each of these hostels is serving simple food to the residents of three to five hostels twice (lunch and dinner) a day,” said a University official.
“It is really difficult to buy breakfast. Now that the lockdown period has increased, it will become even more difficult,” said Sumit (who goes by his first name), a PhD student at the University.
Students in JNU say the mess halls get cramped with students. “Around 250-300 students of four hostels are eating together in Narmada hostel. Due to this, we cannot maintain social distance,” said Jitendra Kumar, a resident of Sabarmati hostel in a post on social media.
The University said the staff shortage forced them to the present situation. “Many of our mess workers and helpers have left for their homes. We had also asked the students to leave but some of them could not travel. The messes under each hostel are contributing in the cooking and serving on a rotational basis.”
In Delhi University (DU), only a handful of students are staying in its 21 hostels at present. Here too, breakfast has been discontinued.
Prabhanshu Ahuja, a resident at Gwyer hostel, said, “We have only two mess workers in our hostel. They can provide only two meals a day”
DU’s Dean of Students’ Welfare (DSW) Rajeev Gupta said: “We are trying our best to provide for the students. We have told them about the staff shortage. We can’t allow workers in the campuses who travel 20-30 kms to reach the University. It’s neither safe for the students nor them.”
Foreign students in hostels
Foreign students on the campuses are uncertain about their next visit home.
DU has two hostels for foreign students, one each for men and women.
Precious, a South African national and at hostel resident, said that most of them are trying to engage themselves in online assignments to avoid anxiety. “We do not know when we will be able to travel home. Now, we are trying to spend more time in finishing online assignments we are receiving from our colleges,” she said.
In JNU, there are around 60 foreign students at present.
A PhD student from Bangladesh, who wished not to be named, said, “Many of us are from Covid-19 affected countries. We are really worried about our families. We are just trying to stay strong in these testing times.”
Students in Jamia said many foreign residents have shifted to facilities provided by their respective embassies last week. “The administration did not ask the foreign students to vacate . Some of the students panicked and contacted their embassies. Some of us are staying back. We are getting proper meals,” said an Afghan national pursuing masters in the University. Jamia has as many as 250 foreign students.