The Punjab government has issued a notice to a private university in Phagwara for violating the coronavirus lockdown, alleging that it remained open and also failed to cooperate with the administration after a hosteller tested positive the infection.
A day after the show-cause notice was served to Lovely Professional University (LPU), Congress activists on Friday held a protest by Congress, demanding that the varsity authorities should be booked for the breach of lockdown regulations just like the Tablighi Jamaat meet participants.
The state government issued the notice to the Phagwara-based LPU attitude as 'extremely callous and irresponsible' in handling the case of a 21-year-old, corona-positive woman hosteller and keeping itself open, and sought its explanation over the breach of lockdown orders.
The LPU violated the government of India's lockdown orders under the Epidemic Act and Section 144 of Code of Criminal Procedure for closure of the educational institutes across the country, the state government said, asking the varsity to explain why the no objection certificate given to it should not be revoked.
The alleged violation of the lockdown orders by the varsity, meanwhile, triggered a massive protest by Congress workers, who demanded that the varsity authorities should be booked for the breach just like the Tablighi Jamaat meet participants.
The notice, issued on Thursday, sought to remind the LPU that Punjab's Higher Education Ministry had on March 13 ordered suspension of all kinds of teaching work in all institutions, including the private ones.
Confirming that LPU was issued a show cause notice on Thursday, Kapurthala Deputy Commissioner Deepti Uppal said a copy of the same was received by her on Friday.
In the notice, the state's Higher Education and Language Department asked LPU, which also has several foreign students on its rolls, to explain within seven days why the NOC issued to it should not be revoked for violating the government orders and endangering the lives of 3,200 people, and many more.
The notice said the Punjab higher education minister had also ordered the suspension of teaching in all institutions, including the private ones, on March 13.
'It has now come to light that in spite of the instructions, ignoring the gravity of the situation and jeopardising the lives of about 3,200 people and thousands of others to which infection can spread, you did not shut down completely,' it said.
'Considering the highly infectious nature of the disease and despite the fact that there was sufficient time for you to send all students to their respective homes from March 13 to March 22, you continued with the functioning of the university and its hostels and made no efforts to send them to their homes,' the notice said.
The notice said, 'It might be argued by you that the movement of students was not possible in the light of the complete lockdown.'
'But, there is no denying the fact that norms about maintaining social distancing were flouted and the administration was informed that the university was shut and vacated, while that was not the case.
'It is amply clear that you did not pay any heed to instructions of the district administration on March 23 and kept it in dark,' the government told the LPU authorities.
'When the world is battling this deadly virus and the only remedy is the complete isolation, your administration threw all instructions to the winds and put hundreds of lives at risk,' it added.
Referring to the case of 21-year-old Maharashtra student testing positive on April 12, the notice said, 'There was a corona positive case in your institution and that too was not handled in right earnest.'
'The university authorities did not cooperate with the district administration and the Health Department in sending the patient to hospital.
'It is clear from above that your conduct and response of the university have been extremely callous and irresponsible,' said the strongly-worded notice.
At present, the student is undergoing treatment at Kapurthala civil hospital.
The notice also mentioned that the issue of the university functioning despite the lockdown had been raised by 'some dignitaries'.
Former Union minister and ex-Hoshiarpur Bharatiya Janata Party MP Vijay Sampla and Kapurthala ruling party MLA Rana Gurjeett Singh had taken up the issue with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Amarinder Singh respectively earlier this week.
LPU Additional Director Aman Mittal, however, could not be contacted despite repeated attempts.
The Congress activists held the demonstration at the varsity gate on the national Higway 1 near Chaheru, 7 km from Phagwara.
Led by Phagwara Block Congress Committee (Urban) president and former councillor Sanjeev Bugga, protesters demanded registration of an FIR against the university management, akin to the cases lodged against FIRs Tablighi Jamaat members.
Sporting placards and shouting slogans against the university management, the protesters, however, maintained social distancing by standing at 'respectable' gaps among them.
Addressing them, Bugga alleged that varsity management had put the lives of hundreds of students to grave risk by keeping them in hostels when government had ordered closure of all educational institutions due to Covid-19.
"The management has also imperilled lives of thousands of villagers residing in its vicinity," he alleged.