NEET, JEE row: Sonia calls opposition-meet, Mamata suggests approaching SC
On Wednesday, at the opposition meeting convened by Congress President Sonia Gandhi on the controversy around JEE and NEET examinations, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee suggested approaching Supreme Court seeking a postponement. The competitive exams, scheduled for September, have kicked a row with many students and parents asking for deferring them, in the wake of the raging coronavirus crisis. Here are more details.
The competitive examinations, conducted by NTA, are being held at a time when India's COVID-19 tally has crossed 32.31 lakh and over 59,000 are dead. There is a palpable concern that examinations would put students and their respective families at risk. Last week, an attempt to defer the examinations was crushed by SC when it concluded that not conducting them would damage students' careers.
After top court's order, the chorus against conducting the examinations has grown louder with lakhs of students and some politicians like Banerjee, Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi, MK Stalin, Aaditya Thackeray, and BJP's Subramanian Swamy, supporting the cause. Today, Sonia, who recently managed to save her post for another six months, called a meeting, that was attended by some CMs of Congress.
Banerjee, one of the most staunch critics of Centre, suggested going to SC against this decision. "Let us talk about this matter. This is a mental agony for students. I have not seen so many atrocities in a democracy," she said. Her Punjab counterpart Captain Amarinder Singh concurred, saying that all who are part of the virtual meeting must knock on SC's doors.
When Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren said they should approach Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Ram Nath Kovind before going to the top court, Captain Singh said they don't have the time as September is around the corner. "We can meet the PM but if he doesn't listen then we must move SC," Banerjee said. Soren also spoke about logistics required to conduct exams.
"Exams must happen, but we are hurrying up. The situation in my state is that we have very few centers. To accommodate these students, we will have to open all hotels and buses. Chances of contracting COVID-19 will be higher," Soren added.
At the meeting, Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray, Soren, and Banerjee spoke about protecting the "federal structure." The Shiv Sena leader said, "All powers are now getting concentrated in one hand. First, we will have to decide darna hain ki ladna hain...ladna hain to ladna hain..we have to protect federalism." Meanwhile, Sonia also slammed the recently-launched National Education Policy.
While opposition leaders are weighing their options, HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal 'Nishank' said that the examinations are being held after immense pressure from students and teachers. He said NTA has made elaborate plans to conduct exams smoothly, adding that 80% of the JEE aspirants have already downloaded their admit cards. JEE exams are scheduled for September 1-6 and NEET for September 13.