Hyderabad University students face COVID-19 crisis; demand free vaccine

Hyderabad: Owing to demands of free COVID-19 vaccination, the University of Hyderabad (UoH) administration is currently locking horns with angry and upset students, who say that COVID-19 related cases are in turn affecting access to education on campus.  

A day earlier on June 26 (Saturday), the Students Federation of India (SFI) from University of Hyderabad tweeted to state IT and industries minister K.T. Rama Rao about how the UoH was largely excluded from the ongoing vaccination drive conducted by the government in Hyderabad. The SFI asked him to intervene, help out with the situation.

Earlier in April, Mallikarjun a Ph.D. scholar from University of Hyderabad’s School of Computer and Information Sciences passed away due to multiple infections of COVID-19 and Dengue fever. UoH student union president Abhishek Nandan told Siasat.com that more than twelve Covid related deaths have taken place on the campus so far. 

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“The student union is currently trying to ensure that a free vaccination drive takes place on campus so that the situation improves,” he said. Sirisha Vepoor, a Ph.D scholar in Women’s studies, said that the rate of vaccination is abysmal despite continuous protests.

Abhishek Nandan reiterated the fact that without free vaccinations a lot of students are unable to access the education they deserve. The lack of academic resources makes it difficult for students within and outside of the campus to pursue their studies with ease, he pointed out.

“This is also made difficult by the fact that the vaccination drive conducted on campus charged students Rs. 850 for the Covishield vaccine and Rs. 1400 for Covaxin, which is a huge sum of money for most students,” Nandan added. It may be noted that about half the students in UoH come from under privileged backgrounds, for whom even a few hundred rupees can be a lot of money to gather.

Dr. Kanchan Malik, University of Hyderabad’s spokesperson said that UoH’s first aim was was to make vaccines accessible and hence a paid vaccination drive was planned. “We are limited by the availability of vaccines and private hospitals were our only option,” she told Siasat.com.

The first vaccination drive was carried out in tandem with Continental Hospitals, while the second drive was administered by the medical staff of Pranaam Hospitals. Of the students present on campus, fifty students from University of Hyderabad (including foreign students) received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, which was held on June 23, Dr. Malik informed.

Some university students sought to get vaccinated at the vaccination drives across the city but the situation is still precarious.  “The University is currently in talks with the state health department to amend the situation. As a part of a courtesy visit on June 25, the Vice-Chancellor Arun Agarwal met with Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan to discuss the same issue to expedite the matter,“ added Dr. Malik.

However, given that it may take time for the University of Hyderabad administration to coordinate with the government and come up with something, many students are still scared of getting infected with COVID-19, and of falling seriously ill.

“Most of the students present on campus are research scholars from the science departments. The situation of marginalized students off-campus is worse, as they are compelled to focus on their familial obligations instead of their studies. Hence they feel helpless,” said Ajay Kumar, a Ph.D. scholar from the Chemistry department.

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