While Meeting with Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal on 20 May 2021, IITs request vaccinations as a priority for students, faculty, and staff. IIT campuses were severely affected compared to other institutions in the April 2021 spike of cases. In April, IIT Jodhpur had to declare a hostel block as a containment zone as cases rose. In the same month, IIT Roorkee has initiated a severe internal lockdown as well, sealing over five campus hostels.
April Resurgence Leading to Vaccination Support
TG Sitharam, the director of IIT Guwahati, expressed this view firmly throughout the meeting. In an interview with PTI, he later stated that “Vaccination seems to be the most immediate and critical thing to do for everyone to curb the spread of coronavirus. Students, faculty, and staff should be given the vaccine to ensure the smooth reopening of the campus as the cases recede and for the safe return of students to campus to ensure uninterrupted learning.”
Due to the government still unable to provide enough vaccinations for those between the ages of 18 and 44, youth-concentrated college campuses remain vulnerable to sudden outbreaks, as a significant number of students still reside on campus premises.
Survey Reveals Shocking Amount of Students Affected
IIT-Delhi conducted an internal survey in April on COVID. Results found that out of 3,910 students, more than 22 percent (over 860) had tested COVID positive between March to April 2021. An additional 61 percent of students reported at least one family member had tested positive in the same time frame. Due to the results of this survey, IIT Delhi has since relaxed its attendance and deadline policies for students.
Status of E-Learning Reported to the Minister
Directors of NITs, IIITs, IIScs, and IISERs were also present during the virtual meeting. One of the main objectives tackled was an overview and assessment of e-learning. A majority of colleges reported having begun online classes from March 2020. In addition, a small number of universities had developed their own apps for online learning and assessments. During the meeting, several IITs have also requested a year-long extension of state-sponsored scholarships for Ph.D. students. This is due to many having missed out on crucial research time for their thesis during the lockdown.
Education Ministry Requesting Vaccine Prioritization
The Education Ministry appears to be on the same track. In April 2021, a written request was submitted to the Health Ministry. This was in order to receive vaccination provisions for students, faculty, and staff of Centrally Funded Technical Institutions. This umbrella includes educational bodies such as IISc, NITs, IITs, IIMs, and others. This was sent before the vaccination mandate lowering to people below 45. The Health Ministry denied the request at the time, however as cases rise, this could change.