Principals, staff in trouble on opening colleges as maximum campuses are quarantine centres

Nishikant Khajuria
JAMMU, May 7: As the campuses of maximum colleges have been turned into quarantine centres in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Principals and staff of these institutions are in a trouble over the Government order on opening of offices of all the institutions of higher education across the Union Territory with immediate effect.
While campuses and hostels of a big number of the colleges across Jammu and Kashmir are already functioning as quarantine centres, several teaching and non-teaching staff members have been performing COVID-19 duties in these centres.
Maximum of the colleges in Kashmir valley have been declared as the quarantine while in Jammu Division, Government Degree Colleges at Kathua, Udhampur, Poonch, Mandi, Surankot, Rajouri and Doda are functioning as the quarantine centres.
Besides, a few other colleges such as Government Degree College Bhaderwah, have also been asked to facilitate setting up isolation centres at their campuses to quarantine the suspected patients of COVID-19.
In view of the present status of these colleges, the Principals as well as their staff are highly confused over the implementation of Government order on opening of offices of the institutions of higher education with immediate effect, that too in contravention of the guidelines issued by Ministry of Home Affairs in view of the extended lockdown because of COVID-19 pandemic.
Since our college campus has been declared as quarantine centre and suspected patients of COVID-19 have been isolated there, we are supposed to not even go nearby the complex but on the other hand, Government has ordered functioning of the office, which is not possible in the prevailing circumstances,” said a Principal on the condition of anonymity.
Head of another college feared that opening of the office would invite risk to health of staff members as the suspected patients isolated in the complex are seen roaming freely on the campus. “We are confused over implementation of the Government order and worried about the risk involved in the same but have no option,” he added.
Pertinent to mention that the Department of Higher Education had yesterday ordered opening of all colleges and universities across the Union Territory with immediate effect without resuming class work, which shall remain suspended till May 30. As per the order, the offices of Vice Chancellors, including Head of Departments and Principals of Government Degree Colleges of Higher Education Department and Principals of Polytechnic Colleges and ITIs of Technical Education Department across the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir shall start functioning from May 6 with minimum 30 percent staff strength on rotation basis.
The order further said that Principals of respective Institutions shall draw duty roster of teaching staff to start pending work of evaluation/assessment, virtual class-work, lab work, curriculum development, scholarships and other activities assigned by the Principal of their institutions. Similarly, duty roster of non-teaching staff on rotation basis shall also be drawn to start routine official work as assigned by the controlling officer of the institution. Research Scholars have also been permitted to start their activities in the lab while strictly observing the COVID-19 protocol.
However, this order is also clear violation of the Ministry of Home Affairs’ guidelines on the measures to be taken by Ministries/departments of Government of India, State/UT Governments and State/UT authorities for containment of COVID-19 in the country for the extended period of National lockdown for a further period of two weeks with effect from May 4, 2020. According to the MHA order, number 40-3/2020-DM-I(A), dated, Ist May, 2020, all schools, colleges, educational/training coaching institutions etc come under the activities, which shall continue to remain prohibited across the country, irrespective of the Zone, for a period of two weeks with effect from May 4, 2020.
Even as the Government ordered opening of the institutions of higher education with immediate effect, i. e. on May 6, the order in this regard was issued yesterday in the late afternoon and today was gazette holiday on account of Buddh Purnima.