COVID-19: IIT Mandi Students Protest Authorities’ Decision to Vacate Campus

New Delhi: The students of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Mandi have alleged that the college has brought them to a “precarious” situation by its “arbitrary” decision of sending them back to their respective homes during the second wave of COVID-19.

“This decision has created a multitude of inconveniences not only for the students but the working staff as well,” an appeal issued by students reads.

On May 6, a task force committee set up by the administration of IIT Mandi notified the students living in the campus hostel to leave within three days through an email. The email stated that students must give an undertaking that they are leaving the campus of their own will. The students say that such directives are contradictory in nature as students are not willing to leave the hostel on their own accord.

The students say such a short period of notice has put them in a tight spot as many states require an RT-PCR report, which is taking longer than normal to obtain. In addition to the shortage of tickets to travel back home, the thought of travelling in public transport has also contributed to their worries, the students add.

“The institution is not giving any relaxation due to these practical problems. The institute further notified the students with a follow-up email that those who stay past the deadline, and are not included in the official list of students who are allowed to stay back, will not have access to the mess food,” a student from the university told The Wire.

The students also allege that they were not consulted before the decision was arrived at. The email, however, includes a clause that students from the third year to last year of PhD can stay over along with students who have co-morbidities and are more prone to contracting the disease.

Also read: FTII Students’ Association Demands Suspension of Online Classes Due to COVID Crisis

The issue is not just concerned with students alone. “Construction workers are ordered to continue their work inside the institute’s facility. It should be brought to notice that these construction workers are working without any of the prescribed safety equipment against the disease,” another student told The Wire.

While almost the entire student community in the campus is being forced to move out as a measure to control the spread of COVID-19, the lack of any order to stop the construction work and provide workers with the means to live by exposes the pretence of the “thoughtful” measure taken by the institute to fight against the disease, allege students.

The appeal also refers to other educational institutions as “elitist” and only serving middle and upper-class society. “Since the declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic in the country, educational institutions, which are also residential, all over India have forced the students to leave the campus and rely on online mode of learning. Such policies by the institutes unveil their elitist approach of serving the middle class and upper-class gentry,” the appeal issued by students reads.

As a number of Indians lack the means to access the internet, promoting the idea of online education is nothing but a sham, a student says.

The students of the engineering department are left in a lurch as most of their projects require high-tech laboratory machines with extremely durable computing machines to run prolonged simulations.

(Note: The story will be updated when IIT Mandi administration responds to students’ grievances.)

Featured image credit: Ministry of Education/Facebook