The Delhi University’s St. Stephen’s College has given an ultimatum to its students currently residing in hostels and the ones who are at home but have their belongings in the hostel to vacate and empty their rooms. If they are unable to do so before August 7th, then a fee of ₹100 will be charged for every day they remain. Students are quite displeased with this notice, calling it unjust, given that they are trapped in one place and can’t move due to the coronavirus outbreak.

John Varghese, College Principal, stated that students have been sent constant reminders from the start of July to leave their rooms. He said that they need to sanitise the hostel for students who will be coming after the new session begins. A notification on the college’s portal said that given the ongoing crisis, and the pleas of junior resident members, students fail to vacate their rooms will be able to remain in their accommodations with a charge of ₹100 per day, to start from the 7th of August.

The notice also addressed resident junior members, informing them that if and when the government permits to re-open housing facilities, all possessions and other baggage will be moved a week earlier than the date of re-opening to facilitate required cleaning and refurbishment. In such a case, the college will not be liable for any damage or loss.

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Previously, another notification was sent out to students, dated 23rd June, requesting that they vacate their rooms. A student from West Bengal said, opting to remain anonymous, that the college is being unfair, charging nearly double of what they would otherwise pay for the rooms. The students had left for West Bengal on March 7, when the college’s mid-semester break began.

The break was supposed to last till March 15 but the Government of Delhi decided to shut down the state due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The student added that students were unable to come back to the hostels in order to collect their belongings. He said that even in the current state, it is unsafe to travel. They are stuck long distances away from the college and it will not be possible for them to return in time to collect their things. The students usually pay ₹1,400/month in the form of room rent but according to this new rate, they will have to pay ₹3,000/month.

He continued that although students have been allowed to designate someone of trust as their local guardians to collect their belongings, that is not at all viable as the rooms’ keys of the rooms are in possession of the hostellers.

Another hosteller currently stuck in Kashmir, mentioned unsafe travel being the main issue. He also said that he has written to the dean of residence but received no solution to the issue.

He added that there are students who live in or around Delhi and could get there by car but his local guardian resides in a containment zone and will not be able to travel given the situation.

Principal Varghese said that a portion of students has been circulating misinformation. He said that before the lockdown was enforced, lots of students had already left the hostel due to the mid-semester break. After the lockdown was announced, they did not return. He added that no one is talking about the fact that the college is charging them nothing at all for the duration of time they have been gone till August 7th. Not a single paisa has been charged for the period of time they were not in the hostel.

He said there were some students who had stayed there till June 30 and were charged only for the time they remained, not for their belongings that had been left behind.

He said that the college has admissions and needs to get ready for the new set of students that will join it, as applications are submitted every year. As such, they have to get the rooms ready, repair damages, fumigate and sanitise the rooms, and then finally assign rooms for the fresh set of students to come, though they are unsure when that will happen.

The principal added that unless the possessions of the students are collected by them, they cannot carry out any of these things. He also said that the dean of residence has been asking them all to retrieve their belongings and in case they are unable to do so, they may designate any relative or acquaintance as their local guardian in Delhi who can collect their things. Many of the students have done just that.

He continued that from July, repeated notifications have been sent out to the students informing them of the deadline. He said that now since the lockdown has been eased alongside the travel restrictions. There should be nothing stopping the students from doing the needful. It might be true that some places are under containment but they are in a direct line of communication with the dean and have been permitted to authorise someone of trust as their guardian who can collect their belongings in their place. He added that he does not believe that many of the students still have their possessions kept in the hostel. What they are being asked of is a penalty and not rent.

The principal said that one deposits his/her baggage in an airport or railway station and is charged according to the hours. But they have to be just and get ready for the students joining the college. In the current situation, the fumigation and sanitisation processes, along with the cleaning, are going take quite long. He also said that there are procedures that can be followed in case the students have the keys along with them and are knowledgeable of the process.

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