On Sunday evening, we received news from our hostel warden that the hostel is shutting down and we need to hurry back home. The decision had come following a lockdown announced by the government of Tripura to counter the rising cases of Covid 19 in the state and the country. I live in the girl’s hostel of Tripura University along with many tribal and non-tribal women from North-East India such as Assam, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya, and Arunachal Pradesh. Whereas my village is only 50 km from my hostel, the other students live very far away from their homes. As such a panic has set in the campus as they are clueless about what the future holds for them.
According to the hostellers of Tripura University the biggest problem they are facing is the booking of tickets at such short notice. With only a few days in hand, they are unable to pay the huge costs of airplane travel. In addition, some of their hometowns are already under lockdown and so they will be denied entry into their own states. All these realizations have upset students who are now in a lurch.
Hinu Rabha is from Assam studying at the Zoology department. She doesn’t want to go home as it will put her at risk of infection while travelling in train or plane. She is also worried that if by chance she gets sick on the way she might carry the virus home where she has her old parents. “You may say that why don't you stay in a separate room as quarantine but not every home is big enough to have an extra room for people who have returned.” She added that the lockdown has brought immense mental trauma as her fear of infection is coupled with the stress of online classes. “I think if students are sent home, everyone should be given Covid tests so that they can ensure certain safety,” she says. Her classmate Geeta Padi agrees and says that she is very worried about the various consequences of the pandemic. “Even if we don’t fall sick, we cannot study online as we have a lot of practical classes which are not possible virtually.”
Nidahun Lamare is a tribal girl from Meghalaya who is enrolled in the M. Pharma course. Since the declaration of lockdown she has been trying to book a bus home but so far she hasn’t been able to manage a ticket. According to her there are three buses that ply between Agartala and Shillong but they’re all full. “As we have to leave, we won’t be able to complete our studies within the stipulated time. I am worried that the journey will not be safe as I will be on the bus with many other people.” Nidahun revealed that she has not received her scholarship in the past two months which has added to her stress. “Prices are increasing everyday but I am not even getting my fellowship on time. Now the travel back is going to cost me a lot of money. Where will it come from? All these developments impact my family also,” she says.
Pratyush Paul Kayshyap from Assam is another student of M. Pharma who is worried about how the pandemic will affect his future. His home is located in a rural area where the phone network is not available. Last year he attended classes online and had to face many issues. “People do not realise that many students do not have access to Wifi and even those who have phones may not have enough money to buy data packs,” he says.
Almost all students of Tripura University are worried about the coming days as they struggle between the pandemic and their studies. The second wave of the pandemic has caused a lot of grievances around the country. Many people have lost their near and dear ones. At this time students are also suffering due to the uncertainty surrounding their lives and their future. I hope people in power protect students from the effect of the pandemic.
This article has been created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.