200 Kashmiri students stranded in Delhi want to go home; No cash, no food

KT NEWS SERVICE. Dated: 3/31/2020 11:53:24 PM

“We’re doing our best to cope up with requests pouring in; but volume too big,” says DC Srinagar

JAMMU, March 31: About 200 Kashmiris, mostly students, stranded in Delhi, are caught between the devil and deep-sea situation amidst the lockdown and the threat of Coronavirus epidemic.
Locked up inside their hostels or private rooms on rent, these people are not only running short of money and food but are also being asked to vacate the hostel premises or the rooms for which they can no longer pay rents.
One of the students who spoke to KTNS on phone maintained that “even the shops close to where they live have run out of supplies” and feared that they may have to die of hunger and possibly without a shelter if they had to continue like that.
One of the stranded people, Aijaz Malik, who hails from Kupwara and works for a pharmaceutical company said that he was in touch with 200 people including women, mostly students or young professionals who want to return to their homes but have no option but to wait and continue hoping.
“We are ready to be quarantined and be tested for Covid-19. We are also ready to pay for being transported by the government,” he said. He regretted that while every other state has made arrangements for evacuating their students, “no help has come for us.”
He said that he had tried to contact the various helplines announced by the government but “the numbers are not reachable”. “I even messaged Deputy Commissioner Srinagar, PA to Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir as well as principal secretary, Rohit Kansal. However, none of them have responded so far,” he added.
After the helplines failed to work, he messaged Deputy Commissioner, Shahid Iqbal Choudhary, on Thursday last, on the latter’s twitter account, saying, “200 students stuck at Delhi. Need Help. We don’t have permission to travel outside Delhi. We will have medical check-up before entering the city. Most of us our medical professionals”.
When contacted, Choudhary said that it was humanly impossible to reply to every message on twitter, “which is why we have helplines.”
He also said that “since the time we announced dedicated helpline yesterday, every call received has been documented and action initiated……So far we have responded to students in 29 districts of 7 states and provided financial assistance to 73 students in one day. We have even assisted 388 students/ requests in one day. My own colleagues in WB Himachal and Rajasthan reached out to students with aid.”
He said that the administration is virtually working round the clock and responding to as many messages possible but said that he was unable to trace the one mentioned, so far.
“I have personally responded to 132 messages on WhatsApp and Twitter in the last 24 hours and attended 247 telephonic calls. More than this would have been missed owing to human limits and official work,” he said, adding that every call is responded and acted upon. “In many districts of Rajasthan, UP, Panjab, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Himachal and Karnataka, the local administration has responded to the requests we made,” he further said.
On Saturday last, Aijaz wrote to the LG’s PA, seeking his attention with a text message on his phone which read, “We are 200 students stuck at Delhi. We want to travel home. We have already been locked inside for 10 days. Every state today evacuated passengers through buses. Please do the needful.”
In a subsequent message, he wrote, “We are ready for quarantine in Srinagar. Our group includes doctors and paramedical professionals….We don’t want to die here.”
Aijaz said that majority of them are connected to medical profession. There are students of medicine, Pharmacy, paramedics, Nursing and also qualified medical interns. “Once cleared of quarantine and Covid-19 tests, we could be helpful as volunteers in fighting the pandemic in our region,” he added hopefully.
Principal Secretary Rohit Kansal, when contacted, did not respond to the particular case but said that “The government of J&K has set up a full-fledged system to take care of residents who happen to be stranded. There is a 24x7 helpline in Resident Commission J&K house and the same has been widely publicized. Anybody from J&K who needs assistance has been requested to contact the helpline and help will be provided. This has been communicated to everybody who has reached out to any officer or official in J&K.”
In response to the inability of the students in reaching the helplines, Kansal said that “two senior officers are stationed full time in Resident Commissioner’s office including a nodal officer (KAS), Rimpy Ohri, and those needing help could contact them.”
Another stranded student, Mehran Rashid, who spoke to KTNS, said that though he was not bogged by the food or money shortage as yet and continued to stay in a rented accommodation in Delhi, he wanted to go back to his home. “I am ready to be quarantined, as per requirement. But caught in the midst of this pandemic away from home is psychologically distressing. I want to be closer to my family.”
He said that he had personally not contacted anyone from the administration but he had heard that some of the stranded students had forwarded the requests. “I don’t know what happened to that.”



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