The Delhi University's St. Stephen's College will be charging a penalty of Rs 100 per day from hostellers who will not vacate their rooms till August 7, a move that has upset many students.
Students are unhappy with the latest notice and said it is "unfair" to them especially at this time when they are stuck in their home towns.
According to college principal John Varghese, the students have been sent repeated reminders since the beginning of July and the college has to "fumigate" and "sanitise" the rooms for the students who will be coming after the new session begins.
"Considering the ongoing pandemic, and the many requests submitted by the resident junior members, students who are unable to vacate their rooms will be allowed to retain their rooms with a modest room rent charge of Rs 100 per day starting from August 7, 2020," a notice posted on the college website said.
"Resident Junior members are also hereby notified that, if and when the government gives the permission to reopen the residence facilities, all belongings and luggage will be moved a week prior to the date of residence reopening to facilitate necessary cleaning and renovations. In such occasion, the college will not be responsible for loss or damages," the notice added.
Prior to this, another notice was issued to the students on June 23 asking them to vacate their rooms.
A hosteller, who is currently in West Bengal, said the college is being "unfair" and is charging almost double the amount of what they would usually pay for the room.
He left Delhi for his home town two days prior to March 9, when the mid-semester break started.
The mid-semester break was till March 15 but before that the Delhi University announced that it would be closed in view of the coronavirus pandemic.
"Subsequently, the lockdown was announced and we were unable to come back to Delhi. Even in the current situation, it is not safe to travel. Students are stuck in northeast and far off places and won't be able to come back in time to collect their belongings. We usually pay Rs 1,400 as the room rent but going by the current rate, we will end up paying Rs 3,000 for a month," the student said on the condition of anonymity.
He said that students have been provided the option to authorise their local guardians to collect their belongings but that is also not possible since the keys of the rooms are with the hostellers.
Another hosteller, who is stuck in Kashmir, cited the issue of unsafe travel during the pandemic and said that he has written to the dean (residence) but their has been no solution to the issue.
"There are some students who live nearby Delhi and could travel by car and collect their belongings. But my local guardian lives in a containment zone and won't be able to travel in such a situation. It is unfair during this time," he said.
The college principal said that a section of students is circulating "misinformation".
"By the time the lockdown happened, a lot of the students had gone for the mid-semester break. Since the lockdown happened, they didn't come back. Nobody is talking about the fact that the college is not charging them from the period from the time they were not here till August 7. They have not been charged a single paise for the period they were not here," Varghese told PTI.
He said there were a few students who were there till June 30 and they would be charged only for the time they were here which means they won't be charged for July.
"We have admissions and we have to get ready for the fresh set of students and in our hostels, applications are made every year. So we have to get ready the rooms, carry out repairs, fumigation, sanitisation and then get rooms for the fresh set of students, who will come, but we don't know when," he added.
"Unless the things are removed, we cannot carry out either repairs or sanitisation," he said, adding that the dean (residence) has been telling all of them to remove their belongings and in case they are unable to come, they can authorise a friend or a relative in Delhi to come and remove their stuff.
Many of the students have done that, the college principal said.
From July onwards, regular notices and information have been going to the students and they have been given a deadline till August 7.
"Now the lockdown has been opened up and there is no restriction on travel. What is preventing them? That will be true (about restrictions in certain places) but they are in direct communication with dean's office and they have been asked to authorise someone here. I don't think a big number of students have their belongings still kept here," the college principal said.
Varghese said that what they are being asked to pay is not a "rent" but a "penalty".
"You deposit a luggage in an airport or railway station's cloak room and you are charged by the hour. But we have to be fair and we have to prepare for the students who are coming," he said.
In the current scenario, the process of sanitisation and cleaning is going to be a longer process, Varghese said.
He added that there are "certain procedures" that can be followed if the students have taken the keys with them and they are aware about the process.