More than 50 Indian students who entered Bangladesh Saturday to take their medical exams in colleges affiliated to the University of Dhaka had to wait for hours in a bus after they were asked to quarantine at government-nominated hotels in Brahmanbaria district though the rooms were not yet ready. It was only late Saturday night, almost 10 hours after they crossed over, that the entire group got rooms. The 21 girls having been allotted rooms a bit earlier.
The 53 students, all enrolled in MBBS course in Bangladesh colleges and hailing from different parts of India, said they crossed over via the Akhaura border checkpoint in Tripura around 1 pm and completed the immigration process and were carrying negative RT-PCRs reports and vaccination certificates. The students said they returned to the country after being assured by their colleges that they will either be quarantined at their college hostels or government-nominated hotels according to the health regulation of Bangladesh.
Akhaura Upa Zilla Nirbahi Officer Md Noor-e-Alam told indianexpress.com that the Indian medical students were given the highest priority and shown the best accommodation. He said a magistrate and a doctor were deputed to accompany them from the integrated check post to their allotted accommodation at Brahmanbaria district headquarters, to make sure no misunderstanding occurred anywhere.
“We have been kept inside the buses since we crossed over and are not being allowed to move out. This is despite our colleges assuring strict quarantine in our respective campuses,” said Nuwalid Nissar Lala, a resident of Jammu and Kashmir, who studies MBBS at Jahurul Islam Medical College in Kishoreganj district.
While they were initially told that a non-AC room will be charged at Rs 3,500 per day, finally the accommodation was given at Rs 2,000 for AC and Rs 1000 for regular rooms.
The students claimed the Bangladesh land port authorities have withheld their passports too after crossing over. But Noor-e-Alam said this was standard procedure.
“Our government’s standard procedure mandates us to quarantine any visitors from foreign nations or Bangladeshi citizens returning from foreign visits for 14 days. Their passports remain in our possession and are returned to them prior to their discharge from quarantine,” the official said over the phone from Bangladesh. He added that the students wanted to go straight to their college campuses but could not be allowed to do so due to quarantine guidelines.
According to Brahmanbaria district administration reports, 1,576 people including Indian nationals and Bangladeshi citizens returning from India have been quarantined in the district since April 26. According to sources in the district, some of the students have also been taken to Comilla town.
Earlier, Mir Hashim, another student going back to Jahurul Islam Medical College, said the facility shown initially did not seem like a hotel. “It is filthy and unhygienic,” he told indianexpress.com on the phone. Nissar’s classmate Faiza Eram, a resident of Kolkata, said the rooms are situated in a shopping plaza in the market. “During the quarantine period, we are supposed to study for our MBBS professional exams which are tentatively scheduled to be held from June 29. The rooms do not have attached bathrooms and adjacent rooms have been allotted to vendors who are not under quarantine,” she said, adding that they fear for their safety and health at the location.
The Anwer Khan Modern Medical College (AKMMC) in Dhaka had issued a letter on June 7 to students Prasanna Das and Mohd Anwarul Haq, assuring that they will either be quarantined at their college hostel or government-nominated hotels according to the health regulation of Bangladesh. Das is among those stuck in the bus.
“The college has taken necessary measures to provide appropriate facilities to our students, but we have to abide by the government regulations. We are deeply concerned about the students’ health and safety. Around 13 students who had come from Nepal are already in quarantine at a hotel in Brahmanbaria,” said Saikat Rana, administrative officer, AKMMC.