Congress president Sonia Gandhi has hit out at the Centre for pushing ahead with the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) for admission to engineering colleges and the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) for medical schools, accusing it of not caring about students.
Thousands of students, parents and several political leaders have demanded that the tests, which are taken by lakhs of children, be put off in wake of the coroanvirus situation in the country.
“…There are other problems with students and examinations. These are also dealt with uncaringly,” Gandhi said during a meeting with the chief ministers of seven opposition-ruled states on August 26.
A day earlier, the National Testing Agency (NTA), tasked with conducting the entrance examinations, said the tests would be held as planned--JEE (main) from September 1 to September 6 and NEET on September 13.
Gandhi called the meeting to discuss the goods and services tax (GST) issue as well as the JEE and NEET entrance exams.
During the virtual meeting, Gandhi also described the National Education Policy, 2020 as a setback for progressive, secular and scientific values.
Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, Punjab’s Capt Amarinder Singh, West Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee, Jharkhand’s Hemant Soren, Chhattisgarh’s Bhupesh Baghel, Rajasthan’s Ashok Gehlot and Puducherry’s V Narayanasamy attended the meeting.
“My request to all the state governments is to let us do it together and go to the Supreme Court and postpone the exam for the time being until and unless the situation allows students to appear for the exams,” Banerjee said.
She found support in her Punjab counterpart and Congress leader Amarinder Singh. Singh tweeted he had asked the state’s top legal officer to coordinate with his counterparts in other states to file a review petition in the country’ top court.
The Supreme Court had on August 17 rejected a plea for putting off the exams, saying more delay in the tests would waste a “precious year” for students
Thackeray said schools couldn’t be opened in June even though there were fewer coronavirus cases. “What will we do if such a situation arises here?” the Maharashtra CM said, citing a US report that said 97,000 children were infected when schools reopened.
For 22 days now, India has reported the biggest daily spike in coronavirus cases in the world.
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“When candidates come to exam centres, their parents also accompany them, especially female candidates, which is why the place is likely to become too crowded, which may lead to a risky situation,” Soren said. The Jharkhand chief minister said states were not prepared to hold the examinations.
Narayanasamy warned that the tests would lead to a spike in infections and the “government of India will be responsible for it”.
Gandhi also criticised the Centre for not clearing GST dues of state governments, putting them in financial crunch amid the pandemic.
"At the meeting of the standing committee of finance on August 11, the finance secretary clearly said the Central government is not in a position to pay its mandatory compensation of 14 percent for the current year. This refusal to compensate states is nothing short of betrayal on the part of the Narendra Modi government, betrayal of state governments and people of India," she said.