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Schoolgirls from NE stranded in Delhi, wait for lockdown to end

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

A group of 26 girls from the northeast studying in a school for the underprivileged in Himachal Pradesh have been stranded here since March, anxiously counting the weeks and days till they finally get to go home.

Without mobile phones, iPads and other accoutrements of their more affluent counterparts, the girls, from the ages of eight to 15, are staying at a hostel run by the Sanatan Veda Gurukulam in south Delhi's Nehru Nagar locality.

There is no TV and only one common phone but the girls 16 from Nagaland, four from Assam and six from Manipur make do.

They were supposed to take a train on March 22, the day of the Janta Curfew, and could not. Three days later, the nationwide lockdown to curtail the spread of coronavirus came into effect and they are still waiting.

They study at the Government Senior Secondary School in Daihan, Palampur, are supported by the Bhartiya Janseva Sansthan and live in a hostel run by the group.

The girls are now hoping to get tickets on a special train being run by the Railways but the wait is long, and agonising.

Among the youngest in the group is eight-year-old Nandini from Dimapur in Nagaland who is desperate to meet her mother.

"My mother is waiting for me. It has been a year since I met her. I am missing her very much and just want to sleep in her lap. I talk to her on phone but not much as there is only one phone," Nandini told PTI.

Her father died some years ago and her mother, a farmer, supports the family of five.

Deepa, a Class 8 student from Guwahati, said her mother is worried about her health as Delhi falls in the red zone but she has been assuring her all is well.

Ma is worried about my health and whether I will get home or not. The summer break is about to get over. She has given a lot of instructions since the situation in Delhi is not good. I have assured her that we don't step out of the campus," she said.

The responsibility for the group falls on their warden Sheetal Kayat, who has been busy fielding calls from parents and assuring them that their children are being taken care of.

They were supposed to leave on March 22 and their tickets were also pre-booked but the Janta Curfew was announced and then the lockdown happened. The parents of these girls are naturally worried considering the situation of Delhi which falls in the red zone," she said.

Apart from health worries, there is also a cash crunch.

All our tickets have been cancelled and it takes time to get refunds. We didn't have money to book new tickets so we contacted the Palampur local administration through a women's helpline number. They have deposited Rs 30,000 in our account,'' Kayat said.

The Gurukul staff helped the group get medical checks and also informed the local police.

We have been trying to get tickets since the day special trains were announced but there is only one train till Guwahati and no tickets are available till the end of this month. We need more than 25 tickets together which is also an issue. We can't do anything other than wait," said Sameer Upadhyay from the Gurukul.

The girls are unable to attend online classes as they don't have mobile phones or laptops. They are confined to the Gurukul and live in a big hall following social distancing and hygiene rules to ward off COVID-19.

The day is spent playing volleyball, drawing and group singing. They have formed groups which take turns in cooking meals, including staples such as poha', dalia', chapati', rice, dal and vegetables.

We keep assuring each other that we will go home soon. We maintain social distancing and use masks and sanitisers. Instead of tea or coffee we have homemade kadha' (a decoction of herbs)," said Aditi, the daughter of a carpenter from a village in Nagaland's Peren district.

Aditi , who studies in class 11, is aware of the spread of corona pandemic across the world and the importance of social distancing.

Kayat said all the girls are from humble backgrounds and make no demands.

"They never fight and are very caring. They do not demand anything otherwise can you imagine girls at this age living without going out or TV and mobile phones," she said.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, May 19 2020. 17:32 IST