Around 100 of the 250 buses sent by the Uttar Pradesh government to bring back students stranded in Rajasthan’s Kota reached UP’s Jhansi district on Saturday amid the ongoing nationwide lockdown to combat the coronavirus pandemic, NDTV reported. On their return, the students were screened before being allowed back to their hometowns.

The buses were sent to bring back around 7,500 students from Uttar Pradesh who were living in paying guest accommodations or hostels in Kota, a city known for its coaching centres. They have been anxious to return to their homes since the lockdown was imposed on March 25. It was initially supposed to end on April 14 but was later extended till May 3.

Stranded students from Kota arrive at a quarantine centre in Prayagraj. [Credit: PTI]
Stranded students from Kota arrive at a quarantine centre in Prayagraj. [Credit: PTI]

Meanwhile, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, a key ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party, on Saturday reiterated his strong objection to the move and said it was a “mockery” of the countrywide lockdown implemented to flatten the transmission curve, PTI reported.

At a meeting with the district magistrates and police chiefs to discuss the coronavirus situation in the state, Kumar said only social distancing can protect people in this hour of crisis.

“We, on our part, did not make them [the students] languish on the borders but made arrangements for their journey back home after making them undergo medical tests,” he said. “Now, if those still stranded in Kota start demanding that they too be brought back and states start acting on such demands, it would make a mockery of the lockdown,” he added.

On Friday, he had said the move makes it seem like states are facilitating students but “making excuses” when it comes to allowing migrant workers to return to their homes.

Last week, when a group of 300 students went from Kota to Patna with special permission to travel, the Bihar government had written to the home ministry. “This will open up a Pandora’s box. If you allow students, on what grounds can you stop migrant labourers who are also stuck,” Bihar Chief Secretary Deepak Kumar had said in the letter.

Kumar’s statement came hours after Leader of Opposition in Bihar Tejashwi Yadav praised the Uttar Pradesh government for bringing back students from Rajasthan and demanded that Bihar followed its example. The Rashtriya Janata Dal leader wrote an open letter to Kumar, accusing the state government of treating its “own people like infiltrators”.

“You are one of the senior most political figures in the country and are in an alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party,” he said. “But neither your alliance nor your seniority is proving to be of help in this hour of crisis. Why does your government look so helpless and other BJP-ruled states look capable in contrast?”

Yadav also praised the work done by the Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh governments in bringing back stranded tourists from Haridwar and Delhi respectively, and also made a reference to the thousands of pilgrims who returned to their homes from Varanasi. “Why is the Bihar government in a state of stupor?” he asked. “Why is it so insensitive towards our migrant brethren and students who are pleading with it to make arrangements for their return?”

India’s Covid-19 tally as of Sunday morning stood at 15,712 patients, according to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Of these, 12,974 people are being treated while 507 have died. As many as 2,230 people have recovered so far.

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