Kota rescue: Seventy buses head out to bring students home

Updated: Apr 30, 2020, 07:31 IST | Rajendra B Aklekar, Pallavi Smart | Mumbai

The over 1,700 stranded students, surviving on their last few packets of instant noodles, will be dropped in the districts they hail from

The buses left from Dhule around 10.30 am on Wednesday
The buses left from Dhule around 10.30 am on Wednesday

Staying in paying guest accommodations with a fast-depleting stock of instant noodles, students from Maharashtra in Kota, Rajasthan had been living precariously since the lockdown began over a month ago. On Wednesday, the group had reason to cheer as their pleas were finally heard and state transport buses set out to bring them home.

A convoy of over 70 buses of the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC), with a break-down maintenance van and spare drivers, began the 630-km-long journey from Dhule on Wednesday around 10.30 am. mid-day had first reported that the MSRTC has been tasked to bring students back and the plan had been awaiting approval.

Student Aditi Thorat hails from Solapur
Student Aditi Thorat hails from Solapur

The buses will bring approximately 1,764 stranded students and drop them in their respective home districts in Maharashtra. Mumbai and Thane have 10 students each. The number of students may have reduced after parents and local officials arranged for private buses as the state delayed in deciding on the matter over the cost of transport. A few private buses reached Navi Mumbai on Tuesday morning.

mid-day spoke to two students who said they have to walk 1.5 km just to get a meal.

"We have been waiting to be taken home for over a week. We got to know of the state transport buses through news but there has been no official confirmation. Authorities in Kota asked us to check on Thursday as that is when the buses are expected to arrive," said Om Ghadling, who hails from Buldhana. Another student, Aditi Thorat who hails from Solapur, said, "We are mostly staying in PG accommodations. When used to rely on tiffin services but amid the lockdown everything is shut. The local government gives food but we have to walk 1.5 km for that. Many of us have been relying on instant noodle packs, which too are getting scarce."

Ghadling added that names of 44 students are missing from the list prepared by the government. "We hope they too get to return," he said. Many of the 2,000 students had arrived in Kota just before the lockdown began to enrol in coaching centres.

Social distancing on bus
A senior MSRTC official said the buses will reach Rajasthan by Wednesday night. Dhule was chosen as the start off point as it is nearest to Rajasthan.

"Only 20 students will be allowed in each bus and the vehicles will halt at two to three places for food breaks. The buses will leave from Kota on Thursday morning. Due to the long-distance journey of 11 to 12 hours, each bus has two drivers. A van will accompany the convoy to help during breakdowns. The buses will ferry students to their respective districts," the official added.

After returning, the students and their parents will undergo a medical check-up followed by the mandatory 14-day home quarantine.

Asked why these buses can't carry migrants stuck in the city, another officer said that they can't be brought to Dhule and that the buses have been sanitised especially for this journey. The buses have been given provisions such as sanitisers, disinfectants, masks and gloves.

After discussions with the government and due permissions, the Dhule Guardian Minister and Minister of State for Revenue Abdul Sattar, Dhule Collector Sanjay Yadav and MSRTC Dhule Division Controller Manisha Sapkal arranged the fleet in a short span of time.

Approx. no. of students to be allowed on each bus

Inter-state travel for migrants, students

The Union Home Ministry issued a six-point guideline on Wednesday to states and union territories to facilitate inter-state movement of stranded persons, including migrant labourers, students and tourists. The guidelines state that such movement shall be in mutual consultation and agreement between states in buses, following physical distancing, screening at source and destination followed by home/institutional quarantine arrival

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