Srinagar: Students who returned to Kashmir following closure of their colleges abroad due to COVID-19 outbreak are furious at the treatment meted out to them by the administration back home.
Hundreds of returning students were placed under mandatory quarantine and shifted to various places for the purpose by the authorities straight from the Srinagar airport.
Students allege that they have been provided with ‘dilapidated accommodation’ and deprived of necessary protection which they otherwise would have got at their homes.
First batch of 45 students were bundled in official vehicles and shifted to quarantine centers in the city outskirts, hours after they landed at the Srinagar International Airport on Thursday. Private hotels and the government owned buildings were used as quarantine facilities by the authorities. However, the students were crammed in small unhygienic rooms lacking even basic facilities, the students alleged.
“One bed is shared by two to three students. There are no masks, no sanitizers and other basic items. Even the common washroom is dirty,” said a female student, who insisted not to be named.
She’s among the thirty students who returned from Bangladesh and are now under quarantine at a hotel in the city outskirts.
“At such a shabby and untidy place, even a normal person will fall sick. Is this what government calls quarantine?” she asked.
Another student said that the doctors, who visited the center on Saturday to check their health status, were shocked on seeing ‘miserable conditions’ at the facility in which the students have been kept.
“The food served to us is worse than that given to jail inmates. We made fervent appeals to the authorities about it, but no one is paying any heed,” she said.
“Food plates are thrown in our rooms as if we are untouchables. This is so shameful on part of the authorities,” she added.
The students said that a team of health department officials visited them on Friday morning to pen down their names and other details.
“They didn’t enquire about our health, they didn’t check if we had fever. I wonder why we have been kept here,” she said.
Another student who is under quarantine at Hajj House Bemina told Kashmir Observer that he is sharing room with 15 other people, as more and more people are being brought to the facility by the authorities.
“We won’t die of coronavirus but the apathy of the administration will certainly kill us. This place is devoid of all basic amenities,” he alleged.
According to sources, 40 more students who arrived from Bangladesh on Friday were also accommodated at the Hajj House Bemina.
The alleged apathy of the government is not the only issue faced by the students. The response of people in the vicinity of the quarantine facilities is also worrying them.
“Some locals protested outside our hotel and demanded that we be shifted to any other place. They think we are the COVID-19 positive patients and they will also get infected,” said the students.
The alleged ill-treatment of the students has also triggered a debate on social media with many users questioning the partiality of the administration.
“Two set of images being shared by students under quarantine. Those put up in cushy guest homes and others in run-down structures invite questions and criticism” noted Journalist Mufti Islah tweeted.
Two sets of images being shared by students under quarantine. Those put up in cushy guest homes and others in run-down structures invite questions and criticism. Is this a random pick and choose or VIPism being applied? In the name of transparency, can people know how many 1/3
— Mufti Islah (@islahmufti) March 21, 2020
Several other social media users also questioned the authorities for providing “VIP treatment’ to some students”
“If senior police officers can get their relatives out from the Airport without screening, they can do this for their loved ones too,” wrote Basharat Ali while sharing the pictures of a hotel.
Dr Samia please you need to take a stand against stigmazation of this disease.
Asymptomatic with potential exposure need self quarantine not detention centers.
Detaining students together in a room defeats the purpose.
This is absolutely contrary to flattening the curve .
— Shazism (@MehJohar) March 21, 2020
Talking to Kashmir Observer Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Pandurang Kondbarao Pole explained that isolation and observation were two different procedures.
“If three persons are in one room they are under observation not in Isolation. Isolation means to keep the person alone and it applies for those who have tested positive or have developed such symptoms,” Pole said.
He said that police have been deployed around every facility to ensure their safety. He also denied the allegations of providing VIP treatment to some of the returned students.
“This isn’t true at all. People arrive in different flights and we shift them to the hotel according to the space availability,” he said.
When asked about the complaints of inadequate facilities, Pole acknowledged that there might be some issues since the quarantine centers were identified in hurry.
“I will send my team to these centers to resolve all the issues,” he added.
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