Coronavirus: Hostels tense as students told to leave
The JNU administration on Thursday made it mandatory for students to vacate hostels within 48 hours, citing a Delhi government order. International students were spared. The University also said that it will suspend the dining facility in hostels by March 22. JNU has 18 hostels on its campus that house 4,500 residents.Updated: Mar 21, 2020, 12:50 IST
Students living in university hostels in the national capital were tense on Friday after being told they would have to vacate their rooms and leave immediately for home because of the coronavirus disease pandemic. Travel home will put at risk their and their families’ health, many students said.For others, it is a financial burden they can’t afford.
Akhilesh Kumar, an MPhil student and resident of Jhelum hostel at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), said going home, to a village in Bihar’s Ara district, means a train journey of up to 17 hours. The train doesn’t go directly to his village either.
“I cannot afford a first-class ticket on the train. I will have to take a general coach. I do not understand why I should expose myself for 16-17 hours when I can sit and study in my room here in the hostel,” he said.
The JNU administration on Thursday made it mandatory for students to vacate hostels within 48 hours, citing a Delhi government order. International students were spared. The University also said that it will suspend the dining facility in hostels by March 22. JNU has 18 hostels on its campus that house 4,500 residents.
Many students said they cannot afford the cost of travel and are making alternative arrangements. “My father is a vegetable seller in Odisha. We cannot afford the flight ticket and I am really afraid of travelling by train amid this outbreak. I do not know what to do since I don’t have a local guardian here. I am requesting a friend from Muzaffarnagar (UP) to take me along,” said Shyam (full name), a student at the University’s Centre for Linguistics.
Madhavi Shukla, a final year PhD student at JNU’s Centre for Law and Governance, is concerned that she may put her elderly parents in danger of catching the infection if she herself gets infected on the way back home. “My parents are old and if I travel from Delhi to my home (Lucknow), there is a possibility I might come in contact with the infection. How can I take that risk,” said the resident of Sabarmati hostel.
The JNU Students’ Union (JNUSU) on Friday held a meeting with the administration to make an exception for students who are not able to travel.
A senior University official said the administration had asked students to contact their wardens in case they are not able to go home for any reasons.
“At this moment we don’t know for how long the lockdown will last. We need to understand the gravity of the situation. The vice-chancellor has already asked hostels to ensure an adequate supply of food and essentials for the international students since they cannot leave for their respective countries amid the outbreak. We might run out of supplies in case the lockdown tightens,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
In Delhi University (DU), residents of all 21 hotels have been asked to vacate their rooms immediately. These hostels house around 5,000 students, including international students. The University, too, has exempted foreigners. Colleges affiliated to the university also issued similar orders to the residents of their hostels.
The situation is more difficult for students who belong to faraway states. Christina Ering, president of DU’s northeastern students’ hostel for women, said many of her hostel mates had booked air tickets on Friday by spending as much as Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000.
“Many of us are not being able to spend that much. We cannot travel by trains as well at this time of global health emergency. The residents of our hostels have initiated a signature campaign today requesting the University to let us stay back. We are really afraid of travelling at this time,” she said.
Ranjan Jha, an M.Com student and resident of Aravali hostel in DU, said he will have to borrow money for travel. “I only go home (Jharkhand’s Latehal district) twice a year after my semester and for that, I have to book tickets in advance. I cannot afford to book a ticket in a day or two on my own. I will have to borrow money,” he said.
Rajeev Gupta, Dean of Students’ Welfare in DU, said the administration had given two days to students to vacate their hostels. “We are following the Delhi government’s order and we do not know for how long the breakdown will continue. It is better for the students to leave for their homes. If there are students who are facing issues in immediately leaving the hotels, they can speak to their wardens. We can widen the window for them,” he said.
Jamia Millia Islamia also on Friday asked students, excluding foreign students, to vacate their hostels by Monday. The university also announced that the dining facility will remain suspended in hostels until March 31. Jamia has seven hostels for around 2,500 residents.
Jamia students are also finding the situation tough, unable to find travel reservations at such short notice. “There is no availability of tickets for my home in Champaran district in Bihar till Thursday. I don’t know how will I vacate the hostel by Monday. I’ve to make some arrangements here in Batla House or Jamia Nagar for a few days. Also, it’s so dangerous to travel in the prevailing situation,” said. Mohammad Mustafa, a resident of Jamia’s Allama Iqbal Hostel
Jamia’s media coordinator Ahmed Azeem said students with genuine concerns could reach out to the administration by Monday.