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Karnataka floods: MAHE institute, Udupi ignores civic authorities' orders; open despite red alert

Sonal Khetarpal     August 10, 2019

As heavy downpour continues to flood Karnataka, holidays have been declared in its various districts till August 15. Extreme rainfall has been wreaking havoc in the state since the first week of August and red alert has been declared. Schools and colleges have been ordered to remain close impacting both government and private institutions.

However, Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE) in the Udupi district of Karnataka has ignored the orders given by civic authorities. The institute is open despite the red alert in the region owing to the incessant rains and flood like situation.

MAHE is one of the top private universities in India. This year, as per the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) 2019, done by the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), it was one of the top ten private Institutions of Excellence in the country. According to its website, over 28,000 students, 2500 faculty and almost 10,000 support and service staff are part of the university's sprawling campus.  

The University is on the hilltop and is not flooded yet but students who stay outside the campus feel unsafe driving there due to strong winds and low visibility. A student who spoke on the condition of anonymity tells Business Today, "The University assumes that most of its students stay in and around the campus. But, there are a significant percentage of locals who travel 5-10 kilometers each day to reach the campus. Some travel from as far as Mangalore daily." He adds, "Most of the locals travel by buses or scooters and given Manipal roads are not in a good shape, they feels unsafe while on the go." The said student is a local and stays 7 kilometers away from the University.

Another student said that Dr Padma Rani , Director, Manipal Institute of Communication warned the class that they should not share their grievances about attending classes in rains on social media, adding that it might affect their chances of getting placed. The students had contemplated to send a petition to the District Commissioner but did not pursue it after Director's warning.

Dr Padma Rani has denied making such a statement and added that there are a lot of other educational institutions in and around Manipal such as NITTE and many  engineering colleges that are open. "We are in a coastal area and trees uprooting, wind and rain are a normal feature," she said.

Two days ago, a tree fell in the common students room of Manipal Institute of Communication. The same student adds, "No one got hurt luckily as there were not many students but someone could have."

The students also fear falling sick as they remain drenched for hours after travelling in rain. He said they cannot even take medical leave as the University strictly abides by their attendance policy and rarely makes an exception.

Alex Chandy Director, Public Relations & Media Communications at Manipal Academy of Higher Education said, "We have all students staying in the campus and the rest stay nearby, so we don't see any such problem. That (circular) is for the schools that have children coming from many kilometers away."  He adds, "This is basically done by the administration to take care of the movement of students, buses, water logging, trees falling, just to avoid all that."

The Karnataka State Department forecasted very heavy to extreme rainfall in the Udupi district from August 7 to August 11.

In Udupi districts where the university is located reportedly a woman got killed and over 110 houses got damaged due to rains and strong winds and the loss is estimated at Rs 45 lakh.

The key affected areas are in the districts of Dakshina Kannada, Uttar Kannada, Raichur, Bagalkot, Belagavi, Chikkodi, Haveri, Kodagu, Koppal, Yadgir, Kalaburgi, Dharwad, Udupi amongst others.

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