TIRUCHY: They travelled from Milan in Italy to New Delhi in 15 hours, but the journey from Delhi to Chennai is proving the longest for these 15 students who are in a quarantine facility in Delhi. These students from Tamil Nadu are pursuing their higher education at the Politecnico di Milano. After Italy became one of the worst-hit countries due to coronavirus, the Indian government brought about 218 students back from Milan to New Delhi on March 14 and kept them in 14 days’ quarantine.
These 218 included students from various States. Most of them had managed to go back home by road . The 15 students from Tamil Nadu had booked their flights for April 15, thinking the lockdown would be lifted. Now, since the lockdown has been extended, the only option for them is to arrange for a bus or van and reach their homes by road.
The arduous bus journey spanning more than 2,500 km seems daunting for these students, as no restrooms or hotels would be open on the way. “We were hoping to avoid the road journey and go comfortably by flight, but now we have no option. We are eagerly waiting to go home now,” said Nivedha, a Politecnico di Milano student.
This 26-year-old went to Milan only on February 15 and started college. Though their isolation for 14 days ended, they could not come back to Tamil Nadu due to travel restrictions. Some, like Vibin Karthik from Tiruchy, who first booked a flight ticket and later cancelled it, returned home by road. But the journey was a difficult one.
“Sixteen of us left from Delhi on April 8. We reached Chennai on April 11 morning. The biggest problem I faced was coming from Chennai to Tiruchy. I had to wait at the Chennai Corporation office for an entire day to get the pass to go to Tiruchy. The journey from Delhi to Chennai was very difficult, especially for the girls,” said Karthik. He said he ate only one meal on the three-day journey to avoid using a washroom on the way.
Another student who hails from Tiruchy, Gowtham, who is in Delhi quarantine now, is busy making arrangements and coordinating for their trip back home.He said, “We hoped to go back by flight. Now, we do not have an option and we cannot stay here for long.”
They expected the Tamil Nadu government might arrange transport for the students. Now they are arranging for it on their own and bearing the costs. Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) officers are helping them get the travel pass from Delhi to Chennai. “There are 15 of us from Chennai, Coimbatore and Tiruchy. We are planning to take passes till Coimbatore and Tiruchy, as the previous batch which went struggled to get a pass after reaching Chennai. We are learning from their mistakes,” said Nivedha.
They are taking help from IAS and ITBP officers to get all the required passes for their travel. “Our parents were worried at the beginning, but now, since it has been a month in quarantine, they are relaxed”, said Nivedha. The bus from Delhi to Chennai, Tiruchy would cost Rs 1.5 lakh, which works out to Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000 per head.