The Students' Federation of India (SFI) has filed an application seeking to intervene in the case of Suo Motu cognizance taken by the Supreme Court with regard to the plight of migrant workers who have been stranded in various parts of the country due to the nationwide lockdown.
In its application, SFI emphasizes on the problems being faced by outstation students who are being forced to pay rent by their landlords.
Though many students were compelled to return home due to the pandemic, landlords continue to harass them for rent, alleges the applicant.
Additionally, it is informed that these students are predominantly dependent on their families for educational expenses. During the lockdown, payment of rent is an extra burden on students who come from a humble background, especially because a large section of the population is employed in the informal sector, leading to financial instability at this time.
"That there are millions of students in the National Capital and other cities in the country who are living in rented accommodation and many of them manage their financial spreadsheets by giving tuitions, doing part time jobs etc. to enhance their earnings and to fulfill the requirements of living in the city. After the declaration of lockdown, they lost the opportunity to profess their profession freely and due to which many of the students and also their parents have no income for this period. Also, the rent of the accommodation which has major share in the expenses of the month is creating a burden on their lives."
Having highlighted the problem, the petitioner goes on to throw light on the Order passed by the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) on March 29. By virtue of this Order, the landlord of a property which is housing workers, specifically migrants, cannot ask for one months' rent, informs the petitioner. Another Order discussing the problems face by students, passed on the same date, by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is also alluded to.
However, it is contended that despite such orders, including one for implementation of DDMA's Order, students continue to be harassed by landlords and will have to end up paying rent.
In light of this, a clear rent waiver policy has been sought to be adopted by the Centre as well as State governments.
Thus, SFI states:-
"Despite these orders, it has come to notice the Petitioner organization that many landlords have been harassing students for non-payment of rent. There is a serious apprehension that students will have to go through such difficulties unless a clear rent waiver policy is adopted by the Union of India as well as the State Governments for students.
…It is submitted that in absence of any relief scheme by Governments, the students will be left with no options but to pay the rent as per the agreement, even when they didn't used the accommodation premises at all as there is no clause of non-payment of rent in such extraordinary situations in most of the rent agreements."
Urging the Centre and States to immediately take appropriate steps to alleviate the plight and struggles of students during these times, SFI has sought permission to apprise the Court of these problems and suggest pertinent measures which may be considered towards such end.
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