Amid charges that IIT Kharagpur authorities snapped internet connection in hostels of students and research scholars so that they are forced to vacate rooms, the management on Thursday said that they were repeatedly asked to leave since the end of June. While over 10,000 students had left the campus since the COVID-19 pandemic struck, about 100 are not vacating their rooms, Registrar Prof B N Singh said.

An institute source said that net connection in five hostels lodging 65 research scholars and several BTech, MTech students was discontinued on September 1 after the inmates informed the authorities they cannot leave the campus till the situation normalises.

One of these students said that the move of the institute was aimed at forcing them to vacate hostels, but they cannot leave the campus due to lack of adequate transport facility. “Initially they had sought a little more time citing lack of travel options and to make necessary arrangements. But two months have passed since June. There is no possibility of campus activities starting this month, Singh told PTI. The institute has started online classes as the new semester began in September. “We had considered their request earlier as they are our children. But this cannot go on indefinitely. The director himself had also requested them to leave. They must be aware of the pandemic situation,” Singh said. He said that 12-13 people including five students staying in the campus have been tested positive for COVID-19 in less than two weeks. “We cannot risk the health of our students, the registrar said.

An IIT Kharagpur student staying in its campus on Wednesday tested positive for COVID-19, following which the institute decided to seal all the hostels, an official said.IIT Kharagpur had asked all students, who got stranded because of lockdown, to leave the campus by June 30, but a few of them remained there. The first COVID-19 case was detected in the institute when one of them tested positive on August 19. The authorities then asked all the students staying in the campus to vacate their rooms by August 23. When asked about the condition of those who have been infected with the virus, the registrar said, “They had all been admitted to a hospital in Kolkata. Several of them have already recovered.” The hostel where the student was staying was sanitised, the official said.“All students who are presently staying in the campus must vacate the Halls (hostels) latest by Aug 23, 2020, and proceed to their hometowns,” a notice issued by the institute’s hall management centre said.

Prior to this incident, IIT Kharagpur authorities have decided to ask its students not to come back to the campus for the next semester, the classes for which will be held on-line from September, its Registrar B N Singh told PTI. “The COVID-19 situation is still alarming and we cannot endanger the health of our children. We have asked the guardians not to send their wards to the institute till asked,” Singh said. The institute would follow the advisories of the West Bengal and central governments regarding opening of campuses and assess the situation periodically on its own, he said. It may take two-three months more for the students to return to the campus though public transport has partially resumed, Singh said. “However, online classes for the next semester will not be delayed. It will start from September and students will be asked to attend those classes from home,” he said.

Asked what would happen to those students living in remote areas with poor connectivity or those not having smart phones or computers at home, Singh said, “They will have a way out I think. They can use smart phones of others and avail network facility from a connected place nearby.” Besides, if a student is unable to attend classes due to these issues, he or she would be allowed to have special classes later to clear the backlog after the resumption of campus activities. The institute has around 12,500 students and researches who stay at hostels.

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