Around 1,500 PhD and postgraduate students have returned to the Powai campus of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Bombay, as the institute works to gradually restore regular classes.
Following a cluster outbreak of Covid-19 cases at IIT Madras early last month, its counterpart in Mumbai is now cautious of reopening the campus to its full strength. Even as the institute works on a plan to bring students back in a phased manner, physical classes are unlikely this semester, said officials at the institute.
The institute shut down completely on March 28, 2020 following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. An early summer vacation was announced on April 1 and subsequently, the institute announced that the entire autumn and winter semester would be conducted online in the interest of students’ safety.
“We have started to slowly reopen the campus and about 1,500 students are already here,” said Subhasis Chaudhuri, director, IIT Bombay.
Of those who have returned to the campus, most are PhD scholars and final-year Masters students, whose research projects depend on laboratory access. “We have also brought in around 150 undergraduate students, who did not have the means to attend online classes,” said Prita Pant, head of the reboot committee and associate dean, academics. Two-hundred more students with resource constraints are to be back on campus for the ongoing winter semester.
Meanwhile, the institute has amped up measures to ensure an IIT Madras-like situation does not arise. “Students have been asked to come to labs only when it is urgent. All faculty and mentors are maintaining a roster to make sure students take turns in the labs. Guidelines have been issued to both students and faculty on social distancing measures,” said Pant.
In the hostels, students have been instructed to use foot-operated taps to wash their hands before entering the canteen, a common area. “The canteen in the hostels operate in shifts to allow restricted number of students at once and tables have been installed with flexi-glass partitions. We are being very strict in implementing social distancing rules,” she said, adding that the institute hoped to have all its students back on campus from the next semester.