IIT Delhi, Don’t Send Us Students Home. It May Put Parents At Risk
Due to the coronavirus scare, IIT Delhi has asked students to vacate their hostel rooms. 
Due to the coronavirus scare, IIT Delhi has asked students to vacate their hostel rooms. (Photo: Shruti Mathur/The Quint)

IIT Delhi, Don’t Send Us Students Home. It May Put Parents At Risk

I am student of IIT Delhi and one of the many who have been asked by the administration leave the campus by midnight of 15 March by any means necessary due to COVID-19. The only exception to this are foreign students and PhD students who took admission in 2018 or prior. Classes stand suspended till 31 March. Many institutes around the country have suspended classes due to the scare.

For students, however, this is a conundrum as travel increases the risk of infection. The implications of thousands of students going back home can be categorised as follows:

Firsty, personal risk.

There have been recent cases of infected people escaping quarantine via public transportation. It is therefore much riskier to travel in trains, buses or flights.

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Second, the risk to family members. Students going back maybe asymptomatic carriers or can get infected while traveling and may spread the disease to his/her family members, most of them elderly.

Since students from all parts of India study in IIT Delhi from Arunachal Pradesh to Kerala (many from remote areas), there is a third risk of spreading the infection in small towns and villages.

I believe that if there is no infrastructure at these places to handle the spread of the infection, things will get exponentially worse for the country.

Since we have to travel in such short notice without any financial assistance from the institute, the cost of travel will disproportionately impact students from lower economic backgrounds. So there’s a financial risk involved too.

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I personally am not that worried about my health as the morbidity rate for my age group is low. But I may be a asymptomatic carrier or may get infected while travelling for 2 days in train and then bus to my village. I fear this may put my parents at risk. This may become similar to the situation of the Delhi woman who died after being infected from his son who was at first asymptomatic.

My parents, who were in turn worried for my safety, had an emotional response to this and asked me to come home regardless.  

All I can do now is continue to maintain proper personal hygiene and hope that I am not already infected and don’t get infected while travelling back home.

Could IIT Have Adopted a Different Approach?

Instead of doing this, I feel IIT could have allowed the students to stay in hostels in Delhi, which has much better healthcare infrastructure than most of the country, and if anything happens, good quality medical assistance can be accessed in a much shorter period of time. This would have been much safer for us and our family members. Some students went to the administration on Friday afternoon reporting their concerns but no proper clarification was provided.

Since many students have already left for their homes, nothing can be done but to hope for their safety. And I wish that the institute changes its stance and allow those who are still present in hostels and wish to stay to do so before they board their flights/trains/buses to home.

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IIT Delhi’s Response to The Quint

In a written response to The Quint, the Director of IIT Delhi Mr Rajagopal Rao explained the rationale behind their move. The response is produced verbatim:

“Please note that our institutions are residential campuses. If students don't come to the classes but stay in hostels, it serves no purpose. At IIT Delhi, each one of our 13 hostel messes caters to about 500 students on an average and about 400 mess workers travel every day from outside to the campus. With such a large congregation of students in the dining areas three times a day, it won't take long for one infected student to spread the virus to a large number of students on the campus.

We have allowed international students to stay back and also the students from cities where there are reported cases of Carona virus to stay back. We are also allowing a few students to remain in hostels based on justifiable reasons. Otherwise, given the density of students in our hostels and messes, no purpose is served by cancelling the classwork at IIT Delhi.”

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(The author wishes to stay anonymous. All 'My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)

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