New Delhi: On March 20, Jamia Millia Islamia had issued a notice asking students to vacate their hostel rooms as COVID-19 cases started to increase in the national capital. The notice indicated that students could leave their belongings in their rooms as we were to hand over the keys to the hostel authorities. As a result, we left many essential belongings (including passports and certificates in some cases) in our cupboards.
I am at home in West Champaran in Bihar, some thousand kilometres away from the university. Many of my friends are in Andhra Pradesh, Jammu, Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh and various other corners of India.
It has been almost been two months since we left our hostel and without most essential documents, a lot of us have had to put a hold on our future plans.
Like a bolt out of the blue, the university issued another notice on June 3 which asks students to come and collect their belongings within one week so that the hostel rooms can get sanitised.
The unreasonable deadline comes at a time when there is limited availability of trains, expensive airfare and strict lockdown instructions in many states. It is nowhere possible for a student living in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and other remote areas to reach the university on such short notice. While some may have the resources, many of my friends and I will not be able to manage the travel and other expenses.
Besides, the Delhi government also sealed its borders – though some of the curbs have been eased as of today – citing protection of its citizen from those coming from Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and other neighbouring states. There is also a policy of mandatory seven-day long home quarantine for those entering Delhi from other states.
Hence, travelling back to Delhi would also mean a seven-day paid quarantine in a temporary accommodation. This would put extra financial burden on our parents, who are already struggling to make ends meet due to the pandemic-induced economic crisis.
The university must not forget that the government has not entirely lifted restrictions. Many states are still under tight lock and key. How are students from those states supposed to collect their documents?
And we must not forget that we are in a middle of a pandemic and a crisis of various kinds. How far it is justifiable to put students’ life at risk by calling them to the university? Do they want us to move out of our homes and compromise our health?
The university, on the other hand, has said that students didn’t deposit their room and cupboard keys to the hostel office – as was clearly stated in the notice issued on March 20. Therefore, it said, the warden office is under obligation to take rooms in its possession for various repair work, maintenance and sanitisation.
But if you go through the notice, it only says that the students had to lock their rooms and deposit the room key, and doesn’t mention that one should take all things essential along with us that were in our cupboards, or to even hand the cupboard key over. Nor did the hostel office give us an oral advisory on the same.
So we did as we were asked.
Now, the matter of concern is that many of us have left important documents in the hostel, which are essential to apply for jobs and higher education. And if our cupboards are going to be unlocked in our absence, is the university going to ensure that our documents are not misplaced?
And if they are misplaced, who will we hold responsible?
We hence request the authorities to take note of our grievances, and take back the official order.
Jamia administration responds
A day after this report went up, the administration at Jamia Millia Islamia issued a statement saying that “no office order has been issued to call back the hostel students.”
With regard to the notice issued on June 3, which is also mentioned in the report above, the administration says that the “warden may have issued the notice” to inform those hostel residents – who may not have deposited the room keys before leaving – about the maintenance and sanitisation work that annually takes place in the hostel.
— Jamia Millia Islamia (Central University) (@jmiu_official) June 9, 2020
Students, on the other hand, say that the early notices didn’t specifically mention anything about depositing the room keys.
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