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UP’s decision to evacuate students from Kota irks Bihar while MP, Chhattisgarh follow suit




Students queue up to take the buses sent by the UP govt to get them home | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint
Students queue up to take the buses sent by the UP govt to get them home | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint

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Kota: After the Uttar Pradesh government organised 300 buses to take students stranded in educational hub Kota home, the Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh governments too have decided to do the same, ThePrint has learned.

Students from all over the country come to Kota, Rajasthan, to prepare for competitive exams in engineering and medicine. However, after the nationwide lockdown was imposed to curb the spread of Covid-19, about 25,000 students were left stranded in the city. Several of them demanded they be allowed to go home, as Kota is a Covid-19 hotspot with 92 cases, as on 17 April.

“The MP and Chhattisgarh governments are on board. It’s a matter of a few days now,” a senior member of the Kota administration told ThePrint, on the condition of anonymity.

Mukesh Saraswat, director of the ALLEN Student Welfare Society — attached to ALLEN Careers Institute, the biggest coaching centre in Kota — told ThePrint: “Last night, the district administration told us that the UP government would send buses to pick up the stranded students from its state.”

Saraswat added: “The administration is in talks with the Bihar and Chhattisgarh governments too. We are staying prepared.”

Buses from UP arrive in Kota | ThePrint Photo | Praveen Jain

Also read: Sanitisers to migrant shelters — Rajasthan’s Covid-19 fight is a public-private venture

Bihar isn’t pleased

The UP government’s decision came days after the Bihar government refused to take its students back. The students were given passes to leave Rajasthan by the District Magistrate, and reached the border of their home state in taxis with permits, but were refused entry by Bihar Monday.

“It was upsetting because many people had got their hopes up, including me. Nothing was clear about it at the time. Now that the UP government has decided to take back students, Bihar should do the same,” said a student from Siwan who did not wish to be named.

“Our studies have been completely disrupted and if other governments take their students away, it will make those left behind feel worse,” the student added.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has strongly objected to the UP government’s decision, labelling it gross injustice.

“You cannot have two sets of rules for nationwide lockdown. It will defeat the purpose of the lockdown,” he said Friday evening, referring to the apparent difference in treatment meted out to migrant labourers and students. “The way special buses are being sent to ferry students from Kota is injustice with the principles of the lockdown.”

Bihar Chief Secretary Deepak Kumar said the UP government’s move would open a Pandora’s box, despite the other state’s insistence that the buses were sent with food, water bottles, masks and sanitisers.

“If you allow students, then on what grounds will you stop migrant labourers?” asked the top official.

Nitish Kumar’s government has so far ignored pleas from students — even young women in Hyderabad who had pleaded for help in returning home through a video that went viral.

The recent incident of migrant labourers assembling in large numbers at Mumbai’s Bandra railway station, apparently owing to rumours about train services restarting, also seemed to unnerve the Bihar government. Deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi had appealed to the labourers not to return during the lockdown period, and not to be carried away by fake news.

“We have already provided financial assistance to over nine lakh migrant labourers by transferring Rs 1,000 in their accounts. We have received around 16 lakh applications through an app we had launched and we are processing them fast. The principle of lockdown should not be violated,” BJP leader Modi told ThePrint.

Minister from Nitish’s JD(U), the BJP’s ally, are also livid over UP’s move.

“UP CM Adityanath has been defying the diktats of PM Narendra Modi. Even during the exodus of Bihari labourers, buses were made available by the UP government to take them to the border of Bihar,” said a minister who did not wish to be named.

Also read: Kota was once a prosperous industrial hub. Now it has just 1 factory left — exam coaching

Arrangements for students in Kota

The Kota administration has set up eight emergency helplines for students, which they can use to call for food.

The ALLEN Students’ Welfare Society has set up two helplines of its own: One for psychological support, and the other for academic help. Additionally, 8,000 food packets are delivered to students who don’t have pantries and whose hostels are not providing food, in a bid to ensure no one goes hungry.

Students were even more anxious to go home because the National Testing Agency (NTA) — the body in charge of organising competitive exams — gave them the option to change their exam centres when the lockdown was extended to 3 May.

“On 14 April, the NTA gave students the option to change their exam centres, and the option remains open till 3 May. But when the lockdown was extended, ruling out the possibility of students moving back home, they got frustrated,” said a source in the ALLEN Career Institute, adding: “The students here were under the impression that after the 14th, they would be allowed to go home.”

Relief for some, mounting concern for others

There is obvious relief on the faces of students from Uttar Pradesh.

“I’m glad to be going home. My parents are really worried, and I would also be more comfortable at home, especially since the month of Ramzan is also coming up. The food they’re giving us here is good, but I don’t think it will suit me when fasting begins,” said Alkama Praveen, who is preparing for the NEET.

Students show the non-smartphones their coaching centres ask them to use | ThePrint Photo | Praveen Jain

Rhea Chaubey, who is preparing for her pre-medical exams, added: “There’s a lot of stress, and don’t feel like being here. Doubt classes are off and I’m really looking forward to being home and I’m glad they’ve made the arrangements.”

However, for those from other states, it’s a long, frustrating wait.

“I tried arranging for a taxi to take me home, but they refused saying it was an area full of Naxalites. It would help a lot if the Chhattisgarh government helped its students here,” said Ankit Tiwari from that state.

“Lots of students don’t have smartphones either because they are discouraged from using them by the coaching centres. How are we supposed to manage?” Tiwari added.

(With additional reporting by Dipak Mishra in Patna)

Also read: How Mahendragarh, once Haryana’s ‘Kalapani’, transformed into a thriving educational hub


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Andhra doctor, suspended for alleging PPE shortage, now beaten by cops for ‘creating nuisance’




doctor with a stethoscope
A doctor with a stethoscope (Representative image) | Pixabay

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Bengaluru: A doctor with a government hospital in Andhra Pradesh, who was suspended for questioning the shortage of PPE kits, was admitted to a mental health facility Sunday, a day after he was allegedly manhandled by the police and arrested for creating nuisance in Visakhapatnam.

Dr Sudhakar Rao, a government civil surgeon, was beaten, his hands tied behind his back and dragged by police officers Sunday. During the incident, Sudhakar allegedly verbally abused the Jagan Mohan Reddy government in an inebriated state. Videos of the incident have since been widely shared online.

“The police control room received a call about a person creating nuisance on Beach Road Hospital in Visakhapatnam. The Fourth Town police was rushed there and found that the person was the suspended doctor, Sudhakar.

“When the police tried to control him, he snatched the mobile phone of an officer and threw it away. He is suffering from mental disorder and he was drunk. He was sent for a medical examination,” Vishakapatnam Police Commissioner R.K. Meena told the media Sunday.

Sudhakar was admitted to a mental hospital Sunday after doctors at the King George Hospital in Vishakapatnam said he suffered from anxiety.

“Since the doctor is in anxiety and talking irrelevant things, I have referred him to a mental care hospital in Visakhapatnam,” said Dr Radha Rani, medical superintendent, King George Hospital.

A statement released by the hospital said: “Dr Sudhakar was brought to the KGH casualty ward at 6.30 pm. From the smell, it was found that he was in a drunk condition. Under the influence of alcohol, he did not cooperate with anybody there and kept abusing all. Still, his pulse, BP were checked. Pulse was 98, BP 140/100. Blood samples were sent to forensic lab to ascertain alcohol content in his blood.”

Also read: 6 toilets for 20 houses, inadequate testing: Why Mumbai’s Worli chawls are a Covid hotspot

‘Treatment towards Sudhakar was inhuman’

Sudhakar, who spent more than 10 years at the Narsipatnam Government Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, was suspended from his duties in March after he openly criticised the Reddy government for failing to provide PPE kits and N95 masks to doctors treating Covid-19 patients.

He had alleged that the state government was giving N95 masks and PPE kits meant for doctors to politicians and the police.

A video of Sudhakar criticising the government was also shared widely. In the clip, he can be heard saying: “We are putting our lives at risk here. We are asked to use the same mask for 15 days and a fresh mask will be provided only twice a month.”

Speaking to ThePrint, Dr P. Gangadhar Rao, member of the National COVID Committee of the Indian Medical Association, said the manner in which Sudhakar was manhandled by the police was “inhuman” and “violated” human rights.

“We strongly condemn the way he was taken into custody. He was not carrying a weapon, he was alone, the number of policemen outnumbered him. Why treat him like that? We also saw a video where a policeman beats him with a lathi,” said Dr Gangadhar.

He added that Rao was one of the most experienced anaesthetists the Andhra Pradesh government had.

“Our next step of action is to get Sudhakar to write an unconditional apology for having used filthy language, abusing the chief minister and the government. We will then take our appeal to the CM seeking that he be reinstated,” Gangadhar said.

Also read: Face shields, gowns, masks — the new attire for cabin crew post lockdown


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