Homesick, stranded in Kota 

As the lockdown continues, students from across the country stranded in Kota, Rajasthan are requesting state governments to facilitate their return home

On 24 March when news of the lockdown reached Rajpreet, a medical aspirant from Dhanbad, Jharkhand studying in Kota, Rajasthan, he was not worried. He thought he would spend the 21 days prepping for the upcoming NEET exam. “I thought this is an opportunity for me to focus on studies, and spend my time preparing for the NEET exam, which was scheduled for 3 May”. However, as time passed, a sense of loneliness overtook him, so much so that he could no longer concentrate on his studies. The pressure of being away from his family during a pandemic with little external stimulation further aggravated his situation. And it wasn’t just him, thousands of students from the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Haryana, West Bengal and Maharastra are stuck in Kota.

Home to lakhs of students from across the country, Kota is the hub of coaching centres. These centres are primarily aimed at assisting students to prepare for the highly competitive entrance exams for engineering and medical colleges. But since the lockdown to combat Coronavirus was announced, students stranded in the city have been facing a host of problems. 

Students from nearby states were able to reach their homes before the lockdown. However, those from far-flung states were left in a limbo. “We usually book tickets in advance for our travel home, but with the sudden lockdown, we could not get confirmed tickets and were left stranded”, says Sweta, an IIT aspirant from Patna.

Students in Kota are now facing problems in concentrating on their studies. The loneliness and anxiety related to their career is a big concern for them. Many students inform us that even though hostel owners are taking care of their necessities, the cancellations of exams along with the pressure of being holed up inside their rooms have made things tough. 

Paras, a medical studies aspirant preparing for NEET exam, has lost all motivation to study. The entrance exam has been cancelled and his family is worried about the spread of the disease, he says. “My family members are worried; it has now become difficult for me as I can’t concentrate on studies in such a scenario. But I have received a call from concerned authorities from my home state; they said a bus will be coming to take us back”.  

Many state governments have taken initiatives to arrange for the return of students to their home states. Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana are also sending buses to bring their students back. But students from far-flung states have no recourse as their states have taken no such steps. Bihar’s government  is in fact adamant on not facilitating the return of students. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said on 18 April that bringing back students from other states is a clear violation of the nationwide lockdown. 

Contrary to this stand, BJP MLA Anil Singh, from Hisua personally drove down to bring back his daughter during the ongoing lockdown. As per reports, a special pass was issued by Nawada SDM for him.

The government of West Bengal has also expressed helplessness, Chief Secretary Rajiv Gauba said that almost 300 buses and three night-halts would be required to bring back around 3,000-4,000 students, which is practically impossible.

All this while, students are taking to social media, requesting governments to pay heed to their plight. Many students tweeted on social media with hashtags like #SendUsBackHome to grab the attention of the administration. A student named Safiah Sirin tweeted, “Over 2,000 students are stranded in Kota without hygienic food or proper security.”  

Other students have uploaded videos and sent them to their respective state governments. On Monday, 20 April, some girls from Bihar sat on a hunger strike for a day which grabbed the attention of the nation and was shared by leading journalists like Ravish Kumar on Facebook.

Some students are of the opinion that the government should allow the use of private vehicles if they are incapable of organising transport. “We are law-abiding citizens and will follow rules in every situation if the government allows us to use a private vehicle to go back. Then we can happily stay in quarantine back home,” says Akshay, IIT aspirant from Bihar. 

Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot also tweeted on 17 April that, “As the UP government called back students living in #Kota #Rajasthan, it can also be done for students from other states. Students in Kota can be sent to their home states with the consent of the concerned state government so that these young boys and girls do not panic or feel depressed.”

It is clear that state governments need to coordinate and reach out to these students. They need immediate help.

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