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No Food, No Shelter! Panic-Struck Students Have Nowhere to Go Amid COVID-19 Lockdown in India

© REUTERS / SIVARAM VA group of students wearing protective masks wait to buy tickets at a railway station amid coronavirus fears, in Kochi, India, March 10, 2020
A group of students wearing protective masks wait to buy tickets at a railway station amid coronavirus fears, in Kochi, India, March 10, 2020 - Sputnik International
New Delhi (Sputnik): India is observing a country-wide lockdown due to a rise in the number of positive Coronavirus cases, which now exceeds 400. To contain the spread of the virus, public transit such as railways and commercial flights have been limited in some areas and completely halted in other places.

Students at several universities and colleges in the country have had nowhere to go since the government announced a complete lockdown and suspended railway and flight services. Panic-struck students can neither return home nor stay put, as they have been asked to vacate their dormitories.

Neither Prime Minister Narendra Modi nor any other state chief has taken note of the university and college students stranded by the lockdown. The authorities have not released any guidelines or measures with regard to the students living in hostels or private accommodations.

Friends to the Rescue

Friends, organisations and student groups have come forward, as students have been left stranded with a limited amount of money amid a lockdown. Many of them rue that institutes’ authorities for failing to heed their requests.

“We were asked to vacate the dormitory premises when the lockdown was announced,” said Mohammad Nadeen, a student at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi.

He stated the hostel administration had announced the closure of mess (hostel kitchen) and compelled us to return home on 18 March.

"I had booked my tickets for Srinagar for 27 March, since there was no other flight available prior to it. But with the closure of domestic flights, I am left with no place to go to,” Nadeen from Kashmir said, who has now been sheltered by one of his college friends.

Some students revealed that they approached their respective universities and colleges to provide them shelter in hostels, but the requests were turned down.

Viju Rai, a student from Bihar studying at Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi, said he was rendered so helpless that he had to manage without food and shelter for one day.

“With nowhere to go, I eventually asked my dorm mates for help,” said Rai, who is now living with a friend at his rented accommodation in Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar area.

“Keeping in mind the spread of virus, I had decided not to go home as travelling was not a good option. However, I didn't know I would be left without a roof over my head and have to seek help, even for food,” said Rai.

Meanwhile, at Hyderabad University, where students faced a similar situation, authorities have allowed the students to stay-back at the dormitories after their flights were cancelled.

Student Association Sets up Helpline 

A member of the Jammu and Kashmir Students’ Association at Hyderabad University, Hadif Nisar shared that temporarily dismissed students across India are panicking as they are not able to reach home.

Receiving distress calls from students in Punjab, Chandigarh, Delhi Noida, Bangalore, and Hyderabad, Hadif said: "Students fear the lockout might stay for long and are worried if they can sustain themselves. We have created a helpline and are getting hundreds of calls from students who mostly inquire about the ways they can go home." 

The association has gotten in touch with student groups and non-government organisations (NGOs) in different states to help students with accommodation and money.

​A lot of these students are from private colleges and universities as the authorities there are not ready to take responsibility for these students, says Hadif, adding that some students are in paid guest accommodations, but nevertheless are not getting food.

With 492 positive cases of COVID19 and 10 casualties, India will remain under lockdown for at least another few weeks to contain the spread of the virus.

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