Coronavirus: Despite Lockdown, Ramjas Hostel Asks Students to Vacate Rooms

Update: An hour after this story was published, LiveWire was informed that the hostel has decided to stay open for the students due to the travel restrictions in place in New Delhi.

“Where are we supposed to go when all the trains have been cancelled?”

“Isn’t travelling by bus unsafe at this time? Why can’t we stay in the hostel?”

These are some of the questions being asked by residents of Ramjas College at Delhi University (DU) after the college administration issued a notice on March 21 saying that they would take disciplinary and legal action against 12 students – who have not left  the hostel as yet – if they fail to vacate their rooms by noon on March 23.

“Despite repeated personal requests of the warden, the following residents have continued to illegally occupy their rules, defying direction issued by the university and various government agencies,” says the notice.

While most of the residents have left the hostel, the 12 students and a few international students have been left in the lurch because trains have been cancelled, the borders are sealed, public transport is largely shut – and the city is under lockdown.

“My friend Dev Narayan had booked a train ticket to go back home, but it got cancelled. Now, it isn’t possible for him to go back home in any other way. When COVID-19 is at its peak, is it safe for us to take public transport? Will the administration ensure our safety if we take public transport? There are more than 60 rooms and we are only 12 students. We can self-quarantine very easily. Isolation is possible,” said a hostel resident in a video released by the students.

Also read: ‘You are Coronavirus’: Students From Northeast India Face Bigotry Over Pandemic

The ministry of human resource development issued a notice on March 21, detailing preventive measures to attain social distancing. It said that those who haven’t left the hostel can stay back. “Students, who are still in the hostels, particularly foreign students should be allowed to continue in their hostels and advised to take all necessary precautions,” says the notice.

However, students from India and the overseas are being asked to vacate the hostel.

“The foreign students who have not vacated their rooms till date are advised to contact FSA, respective embassies or make necessary arrangements on their own outside during the lockdown period,” says the notice issued by the Ramjas College administration.

Students have also alleged that they don’t have access to the hostel’s mess or any kind of sanitation service.“The authorities have stopped our sanitation service and mess service, we are also not getting any access to our mess storeroom to make food on our own. The administration is trying different ways to put pressure on us so that we leave,” Anurag Meena, a hostel resident, said.

LiveWire has written an email to the principal of Ramjas College seeking their response on the matter. This article shall be updated with his response as and when he replies.

Other colleges

Hostellers in other Delhi colleges are facing the same problem. Students in DU, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) have been making repeated appeals to let them stay in their respective hostels. While DU stands firm on its decision, JNU and JMI have made special exceptions for international students and those who have “valid reasons” to stay.

“Majority of the students residing here are from the northeast, and traveling to our hometown requires us to avail public transport or more than one kind. The travelling will expose us to more dangers of the virus,” said Northeast students in a letter addressed to the DU’s vice chancellor.

The JNU’s student union also released a press statement saying that it’s an “ill-thought” to ask students to vacate the hostel. “In a situation like this, making students leave hostels and other residential places and forcing them to travel will not only expose them to the virus but make them active carriers of the virus to different parts of the country. Further the students from the poor and marginalised backgrounds staying in campuses will hardly manage to survive outside,” said the statement.

Mohammad Mustafa – a postgraduate student at the university – told the Times of India that the university issued the order to vacate the hostel without informing them in advance. “With many trains getting cancelled, we may have to look for temporary accommodations,” he said.

On the other hand, some colleges have permitted students to stay. According to Livemint, Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur has allowed PhD candidates, second-year MTech/MDes/Ms and fifth year dual degree students –  who are already in the campus – to stay in the hostels.

Similarly, the director at IIT-Nagpur said that students, who wish to stay back, can approach the administration. “If any student has any problem, he or she can approach us and we may allow them to stay back”, he said. The administration of Visvesvarya National Institute of Technology (VNIT) Nagpur also said the same for international students. “Overseas students may stay with local guardian but they are welcome to stay back if they don’t find anywhere to go,” said VNIT officials.

At Ramjas, students are still not clear about where to go. “It’s not that we want to stay here, but we don’t have a local guardian here and public transport isn’t safe,” said a hostel resident.

Featured image credit: Ramjas College/Facebook