Calls opposing National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) and Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) scheduled for September are growing louder by the day. Multiple leaders from Opposition parties have asked for the postponement of the JEE, NEET exams amid the pandemic. In fact, chief ministers of seven states have decided to approach the Supreme Court in order to challenge the Centre's order.
Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray, Delhi Deputy CM and Education Minister Manish Sisodia, Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi have also opposed the exams. Tamil Nadu government has sought an exemption for its students while Jharkhand wants the exams to be postponed.
Not only politicians, environmentalist Greta Thunberg, actor Sonu Sood also joined the growing chorus against the exams.
Meanwhile, 150 academicians have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi supporting the Centre's decision to conduct the exams. They said that delaying the exams would jeopardise the future of the students. Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank said that the exams are being held because most parents and students wish so.
Admit cards for JEE, NEET exams 2020 were released on Wednesday. According to the minister, 6.84 lakh students downloaded NEET admit cards in the first five hours, and 7.41 students downloaded their JEE admit cards.
WHO IS OPPOSING
Congress announced that it will conduct a nationwide protest opposing the JEE and NEET exams. "Apart from the very obvious vulnerability to and risk of infection, the decision to hold the exams will undoubtedly make it increasingly difficult for students to appear for the exams due to the availability of limited transport and lodging during the pandemic. While holding exams during COVID-19 crisis has put the students in a state of extreme mental stress, the grim flood situation in states like Assam and Bihar will further put students from those states at a severe disadvantage," said AICC General Secretary KC Venugopal.
Multiple state leaders have opposed the decision to conduct the NEET, JEE exams 2020. In a meeting with Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday, chief ministers of Maharashtra, West Bengal, Punjab, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Puducherry voiced their concerns and decided to oppose the NEET, JEE exams 2020.
Maharashtra CM Thackeray said, "We have to decide whether we want to fear or fight the government. The people who elected the BJP at the centre also elected all of us. But if we do something it is paap and if they do anything then it is punya?" He added that while his state was gradually unlocking, schools remained shut.
Delhi Education Minister Manish Sisodia, said separately, "The central government is playing with the lives of millions of students in the name JEE-NEET Exams. My request to the Center is to cancel both these exams immediately and make an alternative arrangement for admission this year. In this time of unprecedented crisis, an unprecedented step will lead to a solution."
Mamata Banerjee challenged the decision and said, "Let us go to the Supreme Court. Let us talk about this matter. This is a mental agony for students. I have not seen so many atrocities in a democracy. The situation is very serious. We have to speak up for the children."
Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren said that exams must happen, but in conducting the NEET, JEE exams the Centre is hurrying. He said that Jharkhand has very few centres and all hotels and buses would be required to operate in the service of the students, increasing the chances of COVID-19 spread.
Former Karnataka CM and Congress leader Siddaramaiah also opposed the move and said, "Traveling is not safe for students, accommodation is difficult, public transportation is not fully functional & yet students are expected NOT to be anxious to write exams."
Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik spoke to PM Modi urging him to postpone the exams amid the coronavirus situation in the country as well as the flood situation in the state. SP leader Akhilesh Yadav also wrote an open letter and slammed the Centre for its decision.
Left-affliated student wing AISA also called for a protest against the NEET, JEE exams. "Rise against exams in COVID," read its black poster.
Tamil Nadu government has also opposed the move and asked the government to come up with an ordinance to allow admissions on the basis of Class 12 marks.
CORONAVIRUS SAFETY PRECAUTIONS
The government has released guidelines to ensure the safety of students. The National Testing Agency's (NTA) guidelines state that entry of students would be staggered and parents would not be allowed to enter after dropping the students. In case of a sudden announcement of the containment zone, students would be able to move around on the basis of their admit cards.
The number of students per classroom has been reduced to 12 from 24 and the number of candidates per shift has been brought down from 1.32 lakh to 85,000.