Updated: September 8, 2021 10:39:59 am
Asmatullah, a student from Afghanistan’s Paktika province, has completed his civil engineering course in June this year from a college located in Mohali that is affiliated to IK Gujral Punjab Technical University (PTU), Kapurthala. He lives in the hostel of the college and was supposed to vacate it in August this year. However, a blitzkrieg by the Taliban as the US forces pulled out of his country after around 20 years meant Asmatullah was stuck. His country was thrown in a civil-war-like situation and he had nowhere to go.
On September 1, Asmatullah’s college authorities in Mohali served him a notice asking him to either vacate the hostel or pay Rs. 7,000 per month for boarding and lodging charges.
Like Asmatullah, Khatera Noori, a woman student who has done BA MCM from DAV Chandigarh, has not been able to pay rent for her rented accommodation in Chandigarh since August.
Noori said that her family had become jobless in Afghanistan ever since the Taliban takeover and the ensuing fear that gripped the country. Her brother, the sole working member in the family, worked for a media outlet in Afghanistan but was rendered jobless after the Taliban takeover. They cannot support her any longer and she has been borrowing money from her Indian friends for even meeting her daily needs. “I want to take admission in a post-graduation course but I have no money to pay the fees,” she said, adding that her rented accommodation had asked her to vacate the place. “Our visas will also expire if we do not get admission and then there is a fine of Rs 5000 per day. We request the government to cover all Afghan students under Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) scholarship which gives Rs. 20,000 per student monthly stipend,” Noori pleaded.
“The situation is the same in the college hostels. There, too, some Afghani girls have been asked to either vacate their rooms or pay for lodging,” she said, adding that families of almost all Afghani students had become jobless and they themselves were struggling to even have two square meals a day.
Sources said that there were nearly 300 such students from Punjab and Chandigarh, at various universities – including private ones – who had completed their respective courses recently and were either waiting to get enrolled for higher studies or travel back home. Of these nearly 100 live in hostels of their respective institutes – like Punjab University, Chandigarh, Chandigarh University, and colleges affiliated to PTU – while the rest live in rented accommodations.
With the current turmoil in Afghanistan, many of these students said that they were stuck now. They would not want to risk going back to Afghanistan immediately and face the Taliban, nor can they work in India as they have no work permits. Most such students claimed that their immediate concern, for now, was their dwindling finances, and with their family back in Afghanistan not being able to support them any longer, the fear of being evacuated from their hostels or private boarding facilities looked very real.
“I have completed my MA in Sociology from Punjab University and am now searching for a job here for the last one month. But no one is ready to hire me as I don’t have an Indian ID proof or work permit. I feel so helpless and trapped. Even my family back home in Afghanistan have lost their livelihoods and cannot bail me out,” said Feroza Amini, a resident of Badakhshan Province of Afghanistan, adding that all bank transactions in her country were closed.
“There are two categories of Afghan students in Punjab – those who are sponsored by ICCR scholarship and those who are self-financed. These students have either completed their courses recently or are about to wrap up their courses. These students live in hostels and in rented apartments in the vicinity of their respective colleges,” said Abdul Monir Kakar, an Afghan student doing his PhD in Political Science from Punjab University in Chandigarh. Kakar, who founded the ‘Afghan Students Unity Group Punjab and Chandigarh’ recently to take up the issues of Afghan students studying in Punjab and Chandigarh, said the problem was twofold – one, the students here were extremely worried about their families back home and the other being they having no means to sustain their day-to-day existence here.
“Students who are getting ICCR scholarships are not getting their monthly stipends now because their courses are over and now ICCR has stopped paying them. It has become difficult for them to bear their daily basic expenses,” said Asmatullah, adding that they wanted the administration to step in at the earliest and support all students in whatever ways possible, besides providing them accommodations here.
“We have great hopes from both Punjab and the Central governments,” said Kakar.
Punjab Cabinet Minister for technical Education and Industrial training said, “The government will take care all the Afghan students who are studying in Punjab and living in the hostels and outside. We are in the process of figuring out their exact numbers at the present and will soon dole out relief packages.”
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines
- The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.