17 blind students homeless as hostel refuses to open residence halls

In a heartless decision, 17 blind students residing at a government-run hostel have been asked to vacate the premises after the welfare institution decided to evict them on technical grounds. By pointing out government rules, the uncaring hostel authorities have asked the visually impaired students to evacuate immediately since their examinations concluded on April 9.

Hostel authorities kept the student’s mattresses at the entrance of the establishment on Sunday

With the canteen not providing food to them, the students are being fed by a charitable organisation since the past five days. The blind students who are studying at various colleges across the city have been staying at the government-run ‘After Care Home’ hostel on Jail Road, Yerawada, and have just given their 11th standard examinations.

Sleepless in the city: The blind students who are studying at various colleges across the city have been staying at the government-run hostel located at Jail Road in Yerawada

They had requested an extension to stay at the hostel till May 10, as they had enrolled for special summer coaching classes for blind students to prepare for the 12th standard. The hostel rector denied the permission citing strict government policy.

“These students have been provided accommodation only because they are from the Scheduled Caste, and not because they are blind,” said the hostel Rector, S A Shaikh. “As per the government rules, no students are allowed to stay in the hostel even a day after the final examination,” she added.

Hostel rector S A Shaikh

Shaikh further said, “Though the exams concluded on April 9, we had allowed them to stay under a condition that they should leave the hostel as soon as possible. I have already taken possession of the mattresses and books given to these students for the previous academic year. Now, legally and officially these students can’t stay here.”

Sachin Wani, Buldhana; Parshuram Kuchekar, Daund; Aakash Patil, Sangli; and Amol Karche from Baramati are among the 17 students who have been forced to look for alternate accommodation, as the authorities have locked the rooms since Saturday night.

Since the students have no relatives in the city, they all came back to the hostel on Sunday night. “It was our good luck that one room was unlocked and we managed to stay the night at the hostel,” said 18-year-old student Wani.”

“There was hardly any place to sleep as there were only three mattresses available,” he said. With the authorities blind to the situation, the canteen has also been shut since Friday, and the students are being provided food by a social organisation, Sai Prathishthan, which is located in the vicinity. Activists Neelesh Dive, Shailesh Padale, Gajanan Pawar, Sanjay Harishchandre, Ganesh Waghunde spent money from their pockets and prepared food for these students after hearing of their plight.

“We only want a room to sleep at the hostel till May 10, and do not want any food,” said Akash Patil, another student. Meera Badve, Head of Nivant Blind School, where the boys have enrolled for the special classes, said, “I have taken the responsibility of providing food for these students and also requested the hostel authority to provide them shelter till the coaching class ends.

Blind students learn slowly, and therefore these summer vacation classes always help them. On humanitarian basis, these students should be allowed to stay was my request to R K Gaikwad, commissioner, Social Welfare, Pune. So far, there is no progress on the issue.” 

The other side
Despite several telephone calls, Gaikwad was unavailable to comment. When this reporter visited his office, it was made known that Gaikwad was in Delhi attending a seminar. M M Aatram, associate commissioner, Social Welfare, said, “We have bent the rules before, but if the students are ready to give in writing that they will stay at the government hostel on their own responsibility, then things may change. If something untoward happens to them, it will not be the responsibility of the social welfare department.” 

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