The Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India (EDII), an autonomous educational institution in Gujarat, has allegedly discriminated against Chinese nationals in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic by forcing 12 students from the country to move out of its hostel.
Though the students were to finish the course by mid-May, they were asked to vacate the hostel by April 14. However, the students said the pressure was on to move them out of the hostel before the lockdown by March 22. Fearing for their safety, the students approached the Chinese Embassy in India, which, in turn, asked four Chinese firms — all based in Gujarat — to help them with food and shelter.
According to the students, the management informed them that it would turn the institute into a quarantine centre and so they needed to vacate the premises. But the institute made no alternative arrangements and asked the Chinese Embassy to help them. The students allege that the management’s decision to move them out was discriminatory as they allowed students from other countries to stay in the hostel.
The students told The Federal they were on an exchange programme from a university in China since August last year. They studied advanced Hindi at the institute. “We are part of the institute even now. So, it’s the responsibility of the institute to take care of us,” said one of the students, who wished to remain anonymous. “We are not COVID-19 patients. So, why should they treat us differently? It was their responsibility to take care of us.”
While visas of some students have expired, some have been paying for accommodations outside, despite paying for the stay at College hostel for the full term. “Though we are safe in accommodations provided by some Chinese firms, such neglect by the management is not right,” the student said.
The student alleged that they were not allowed to meet the director to discuss the issue, but they were told orally to move out. When we questioned the management, the director of the institute, Sunil Shukla, said the students were sent only after the Chinese Embassy in India assured that it would take care of them, the student alleged.
The student’s statement contradicted the version of some teachers who said the management was that one that approached the Embassy asking it to take care of its citizens. However, when asked for proof, (email communication where the Embassy takes responsibility), Shukla’s office declined to share the information. “It is a confidential document and we cannot share it,” said Avdesh Jha, one of the faculty members at the institute.
Meanwhile, the Embassy did not respond to the queries sent by The Federal.
Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India (EDII) was set up in 1983. It is backed by financial institutions like IDBI Bank Ltd, ICICI Bank, and the State Bank of India (SBI). Julie Shah, senior manager at the institute, said there seemed to have been a communication gap. “We made a decision only after consulting the Embassy. So the management is not at fault,” she said.
The students from China wished to return home. “We want to go back home. Our parents are worried as the coronavirus cases are on the rise here (India),” a student said.
A professor who spoke on condition of anonymity said the management was clearly at fault as they were fearful of Chinese students as to what if they caught the virus.
Gujarat has 25-30 large Chinese companies and such an act by the institution may affect the investment prospects. “The management saw them as a liability. Not only did they hurt the image of the country but also changed the outlook of the education sector,” said the professor. “Now, the students from China will always look at Indian educational institutes suspiciously,” the professor added.