No one could have predicted that the colorful Holi break would leave behind a black-and-white, monotonous life for some people. As days turned into weeks without seeing our colleges or friends, with no proper farewell to our loved ones and the incomplete planned bucket lists, reality slowly seeped in. For those lucky enough to go back homes, the problem of irking landlords constantly pressurizing them to pay the rent although they are not living there is a cause of constant worry. With the deranged situation of the economy that has pushed a lot of people under the umbrella of unemployment and has led to companies revoking internship offers, being forced to pay rent adds to the financial burden of the students and their families. What is even more outrageous is the fact that some of the landlords have out-rightly demanded students to collect their luggage from the housing facility, which is next to impossible.
The pandemic has turned our lives upside down. While a positive effect of this chaos is that a lot of families are coming closer and making more memories together than ever before, there is a section of our population which is dealing with this pandemic alone, away from their family and friends. Without the comfort of homemade food and the warmth of memorable moments, the students living in PGs are in a distressed position. Added to this feeling of missing out on important moments and the deterioration of the psychological well-being due to isolation is the problem of accommodation rents. Forced to convert in temporary shelters into their entire lives because of the sudden lockdown, the blow on the lives of these students had been hard. Lifting of the lockdown has helped ease the situation for some people, but for a lot of students like those in the final year, going back home isn’t a viable option since some universities have announced the commencement of exams in July.
To understand the situation better, Covid19 Helpline India collaborated with HouseItt, a Student Accommodation Search Platform from Delhi and reached out to some of their clients who are living/ lived in PGs during the pandemic or own one.
Ujjawal Jhakkar, a third-year student from Miranda House, currently living in a 2BHK flat in Malka Ganj, North Campus, shared that came back to her home in March considering that she will go back to Delhi after her birthday. But unfortunately, she could never return. Amidst all the financial crisis and pandemic her owner continuously demanded rent. Initially, she gave in to the owner’s plea but after a month it seemed completely illogical to pay such a hefty amount. She was then threatened to either pay the rent or vacate the property. With intervention and detailed discussions, a deal was finalized wherein she only had to pay 50 per cent of the rent considering that there are some owners whose living source is their rental income.
Paras Nagpal, a third-year student of Kirori Mal College, is a resident of Shakti Nagar and is a theatre artist. He came back home to celebrate Holi but didn't know that he would not be able to go back. He did not receive any calls until May when he was directly asked to pay rent for 2 months together. They tried to negotiate the deal but it resulted in a heated argument, and he vacated his flat in June.
There are many more such cases but at the same time, cases of considerate and sympathetic landlords have also come out, giving us hope for a better future and an inspiration for many of us. One such case is of Gajraj who lives in Prem Nagar, North Campus and is preparing for Civil Exams. His father is a small businessman in Rajasthan. When the lockdown was announced, he was in Delhi and couldn’t manage to go back to his home. The lockdown affected his father’s business gravely, and they couldn’t keep track of their finances. His owner who lives nearby not only deferred his rent for two months but also helped him to arrange essential items.
The situation is dire and more needs to be done, keeping in mind that this problem will take a new turn when students have to come back to give their exams since some of them may find themselves with their landlords unwilling to let them stay or extend their contract. Online platforms wherein students can search for properties online and book a visit only to their favorite or shortlisted properties will prove to be helpful. Besides this, brokers and small PG/flat owners must ensure that the properties are properly sanitized before renting them out and are periodically sanitized thereafter. Students who know the actual problems and have dealt with it can contribute by coming forward and providing practical solutions. Students with spare rooms living in the same city as their colleges can help those in need by offering accommodation to their classmates. These are difficult times but standing together in solidarity can help all of us sail through the storm and move towards a brighter day.
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