Cotton University Boarders Given Just 24 Hrs Notice to Vacate Hostel Rooms
Disarrayed students return to collect valuables even as the lockdown and curfew continues
As schools, colleges, hostels, clubs and hotels across Assam are being requisitioned by the state government to be converted into quarantine centres, the Cotton University hostels have also been taken for the same purpose.
However, the students who were living in these hostels but are currently back in their respective homes ever since the lockdown had left their valuables and baggage locked in their respective hostel rooms.
Rahul Bordoloi, General Secretary of Cotton University Students’ Union, speaking to G Plus said, "I was in Lakhimpur. I got the notice around 2:30 pm of 25th May and I rushed back to Guwahati. We were never asked to take away our belongings with us when we left. And now this sudden announcement."
Reportedly, the government had already requisitioned the hostels and informed the boarders later.
"We have six working hostels. I had not got any official notification until then. I had to ask the authorities to give the students some time to collect the belongings or permit me to collect for them all and store them in some other safe place," added Rahul.
Such a sudden notice to the boarders who are currently spread all across the state had led them to panic. Most had even left their expensive equipment like laptops behind as they were not even prepared for the prolonged lockdown when they left.
When contacted by G Plus on 26th May last, Bordoloi was travelling to Guwahati from Lakhimpur. "I travelled half the way on a truck and now I am waiting for any other possible vehicle," he had said. Such was the plight of the boarders given the sudden notification.
As per the order issued by the district administration, all the hostels of Cotton University have been requisitioned for converting into quarantine centres.
Post the sudden announcement by the government, vacating the hostels of Cotton University, which are set to become quarantine zones, became a mighty scramble for the boarders.
Aswini Phukan, a boarder of one of the hostels the G Plus had spoken to on 26th May said, “I am from Titabar near Jorhat. We got a notice at around 2.30 pm (of 25th May) that we need to vacate our rooms by 4 pm of 26th May. So I left Jorhat at 4.30 pm on 26th May and now am arranging to carry back my stuff. 24 hours is not proving comfortable for everyone. We should have been given at least 2 days. The sudden notice is proving to be a harassment for us. We would like to have our hostel premises the way it was before. But I doubt that will be the case any time soon. We get the feeling that things would get only worse. Instead of the hostels, they could have taken other premises like the bhawans or university classrooms.”
“My sister is studying here. I left home at 5.30 am. We are from Jamugurihat, Sonitpur. My sister got the news yesterday that she needed to vacate her room within 24 hours. So we prepared overnight and came. The bad weather has added to the difficulties. A few of her friends from Dhemaji and Lakhimpur have not been able to come. So she and the other friends have taken the responsibility for their belongings as well. There are a lot of books and they are heavy as well. We actually needed a bit more time,” said a guardian when speaking to G Plus on 26th May last.
However, the district administration later extended the 24 hours notice period by 2 days.
“It was obviously too short a notice. So all of us hostel superintendents went to the DC and asked for time till 27th May to vacate the all the hostels. They have given us time till the evening of 28th May. The students from the far off places will not be able to come. So their local guardians are helping out in the process of vacating. For those who will not be able to pick up their belongings, we are arranging to keep the stuff in our television and library rooms,” informed Devartha Morang, Superintendent of SNBC hostel.
“A lot of students have left behind important documents in their drawers and it would not be possible for us to break those locks. These are their personal belongings,” he added.
Given that the hostels would be teeming with strangers who would be quarantined for around two weeks, will the university management or the government for that matter be able to guarantee the safe keeping of the valuables?
Further, at a time when public as well as private transportation is limited and most of the boarders are from far-off places and not well-off, could the government have not considered the disarray that the students and the guardians would be in before the sudden announcement was made?
This also leads to a number of questions: Was the government not prepared for the sudden surge in coronavirus cases? Had the state government not considered the number of quarantine centres that needed to be prepared? When the health minister first announced that hostels of educational institutions would be taken for quarantine, why were the college and university managements not asked to be prepared and notify the boarders and students before time?
“We are carefully contemplating our next moves. After the quarantine situation gets over, the hostels will not be liveable for a long time and there would definitely be a mental block in our students about coming back and occupying them again. The government will have to take appropriate washing and sanitizing activities,” said Morang, the hostel superintendent.
Reportedly, it has been speculated that hostels of the Cotton University and the Gauhati University might not be used until all other possible facilities have been used as quarantine centres.
The government is preparing for more quarantine facilities to accommodate the thousands of returnees to the state. Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had earlier mentioned that around 15 lakh people would return to Assam. Reportedly, Guwahati alone is to have around 80 quarantine centres apart from the hotels that are already being occupied.