The Uttar Pradesh government is sending 200 buses from Agra to Rajasthan’s Kota where thousands of students from across the country preparing for competitive exams have been stranded by the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown.
“The buses are being sent to bring back kids who are stuck in Kota. We are sending food, water bottles, masks and sanitisers. Each bus will be able to bring back 25 kids. Some buses will also be sent from Jhansi,” a senior government official in Agra said.
A city of around 30 lakh, Kota is a hub of coaching centres and education institutes where students go to prepare for tough entrance examinations to engineering and medical colleges after finishing school.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ahok Gehlot said other states could also make arrangements to bring back their students.
As the UP govt called back students of UP living in #Kota#Rajasthan, it can also be done for students from other states. Students in Kota can be sent to their home states on the consent of the concerned state govt so that these young boys & girls do not panic or feel depressed.
— Ashok Gehlot (@ashokgehlot51) April 17, 2020
The move, however, was criticised by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who said, “The way special buses are being ferried to bring students from Kota is an injustice with the principles of lockdown.”
While the central government’s move this week to extend the nationwide lockdown until May 3 to contain the coronavirus pandemic was widely seen as necessary, it has increased difficulties faced by migrant workers, those living on daily incomes and students living away from their homes.
The shutdown, announced abruptly on March 24 nearly two months after India reported its first case, triggered panic and an exodus of lakhs of workers who tried to return home, often walking hundreds of kilometres on foot for food and shelter.
For students unable to attend classes, many states have announced plans to promote students to the next grade without exams while schools and colleges moved lessons online.
More than 13,000 people have been affected by coronavirus in India and 452 have died. Although the numbers are small compared with some Western nations, health experts fear that is because of India’s low levels of testing and that actual infection levels could be far higher.