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JEE-NEET brings another student protest before Modi govt. This time, opposition is united

The controversy over NEET-JEE examinations has exposed many fault lines in the Indian education system and its attempt to cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

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Overstressed and anxiety-ridden students, an adamant government that refuses to budge, and, for once, a fiercely united opposition — the controversy over NEET-JEE examinations has exposed many fault lines in the Indian education system and its attempt to cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) Main, for admission to engineering colleges, is scheduled from 1 to 6 September, and the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), which is for admission to medical colleges, is slated to be conducted on 13 September.

Students across India have been up in arms demanding that the examinations be delayed. Countrywide student protests have continued non-stop — from the flood-hit states such as Bihar, Gujarat and Assam, to those in Jammu and Kashmir where internet restrictions continue making preparation for exams a challenge.

As many as six opposition-ruled states moved the Supreme Court Friday seeking review of its order permitting the Centre to conduct NEET and JEE entrance exams this year.

With only few days left for the exams, the NEET-JEE continues to be a matter of contention and a cause of worry in households all over India. It is for this reason that NEET-JEE is ThePrint’s Newsmaker of the Week.

Also read: Education minister skips NEET-JEE in think-tank speech, bats for govt’s ‘mother tongue’ push

Students vs Modi govt 

The students’ concerns are manifold.

Many students are worried about having to sit through three-hour-long examinations wearing masks without a break, especially those who suffer from ailments like Asthma.

Moreover, the education ministry has said that students with Covid-like symptoms will be made to sit in a separate room and take the exam.

Students with sinusitis worry that if they begin to sneeze uncontrollably — as is common for anyone who suffers from it — then they will be made to sit with other Covid suspects. This can be a scary prospect for any student.

Many students also cite the Karnataka case, where 32 students who sat for the Secondary School Leaving Certificate (SSLC) exam, tested positive for the Coronavirus. “What if we were one of them?” students ask.

The state’s education minister, S. Suresh Kumar, however, said that not a single student contracted the virus at the exam centre. They were “carrying it from other places.”

Even if the minister is right, it is still a cause of worry because other students who took the exam might have got infected.

Also read: ‘Let’s go to court’ — non-BJP CMs band together to move SC to postpone JEE-NEET

Rare opposition unity

The students’ outcry has united many opposition parties in raising their demands, urging the Modi government to delay the exams.

Led by the Congress party, the opposition has largely spoken in one voice — barring the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)’s Mayawati.

But all other opposition parties have called for postponing the exams. The worry also is that students from various states will travel and mix, thereby putting every state government’s efforts to curb their coronavirus numbers at risk.

Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that holding the exams during the coronavirus times is only causing the students “serious mental agony”.

The BJP, however, has accused the opposition of doing politics over the exams.

“The Modi government won’t let Congress spoil students’ future to find relevance,” BJP general secretary Bhupender Yadav has said.

Also read: A year with no new doctors or engineers in India — that’s what delaying NEET/JEE will do

No easy way out

Six non-BJP states have moved the Supreme Court with a review-petition, demanding that the exams be delayed. The Supreme Court had earlier rejected a similar petition, saying “life has to go on”.

“Are you (petitioners) ready to waste a whole year?” Justice Arun Mishra had asked.

This argument by the Supreme Court, of not wanting to waste one year, is at the heart of the Modi government’s refusal to further push the exam dates — after doing it twice already. The NEET-JEE exams are usually conducted around April every year, but students are now demanding the tests be held in November. From what we know so far, the Covid cases will probably continue to rise until there is a vaccine, and so there is no guarantee that conducting exams in November will be a safe prospect either.

And if the exams are put off until then, the new academic session won’t start until January. IIT Delhi director has told ThePrint that this will force colleges to squeeze the syllabus in six months, causing a great deal of loss to the quality of education.

There are no easy answers to these questions. But it is true that as a society, we need to continue operations in all spheres of life even amid the persisting coronavirus. Unfortunately, even if the Modi government does agree to further push the exams, there can be no guarantee as to when we will be fit to hold the exams without the threat of coronavirus looming large upon us.

Views are personal.

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  1. No one seems to point out that the same opposition parties that wants the entrance exams cancelled are rooting for local trains and metros to resume. So it pure politics and not concern for students that is guiding their actions. Exactly the same thing can be said for journalists too. If they are not opposing unlock, they have no moral right to oppose the exams.

  2. The court should ask the government to answer a simple question.. can the daughter of a landless labourer from the hinterland make it to the exam hall?! Will there be transport? Accommodation? Will they be able to afford it?! Exams must be held only if equal opportunity to appear is given to everyone.. Out of the box solutions to ensure this is a must. If not, the exams must be postponed till the time this is possible. If classes are not going to be held anytime soon, what’s the tearing hurry?!

    • If you read the article carefully, you will find that the exams have already been postponed twice. So there is no tearing hurry as you allege. And what makes you think that classes are not going to be held anytime soon? Even Class 1 students are currently undergoing online classes.

  3. The Governments — central or of states are to to provide the facilities for meeting any subsisting or potential threats for development or , growth of nation s human and material resources . It is not job of governments to stall the progress of younger citizens due to hate against incumbent PM or his party . The argument that conducting of examination for NEET or JEE will be life -threatening is too far fetched. All state Government should try to provide for free transport , accomodation to students as Orissa Government has announced. Thinking of Congress and ex-ruling dynasty is totally flawed.

  4. A news item is appearing——- NEET, JEE 2020: Odisha govt to make transportation and accommodation provisions for 37000 candidates
    This the way people friendly governments work. Dynasties have their own rule.

    • It is to the credit of the Orissa Government.
      The Education ministry stands discredited.
      It shows the Education ministry did not consult the states and think through this. Shining example of cooperative federalism!
      The ruling party just decides and rest have to follow. Be it people or state governments.
      Demonetization, initial lockdown in March are all examples of such powerful decision making where ordinary people have have to suffer and cope with this kind of centralised decision making.
      If a student has pre-existing health problems or fears please skip a year. It’ s decided and that’s it. Even the SC has supported the central govt.
      Anyway not to worry, people still love Modi. People will still vote for Modi in 2024.


    मुख्यमंत्रीयोगी ने लखनऊ लोकभवन में आयोजित एक उच्चस्तरीय बैठक में कहा, प्रदेश सरकार नीट तथा जेईई परीक्षाओं के आयोजन का समर्थन करती है। उन्होंने कहा, गत नौ अगस्त, 2020 को राज्य में बीएड की प्रवेश परीक्षा संपन्न हुई, जिसमें लगभग पांच लाख अभ्यर्थी थे। इस परीक्षा में कहीं से भी संक्रमण (कोरोना वायरस) की कोई खबर नहीं आई। मुख्यमंत्री ने कहा कि इसी प्रकार लोक सेवा आयोग, उत्तर प्रदेश की परीक्षा भी संपन्न कराई गई है।

  6. it is plain propaganda on Twitter now! One can find newly created accounts spamming messages with grammatically incorrect sentences, fake pictures and tagging almost anyone on the planet. There was no hue and cry for multiple entrance exams already conducted by various state boards but this one seemed too attractive a political goose to let go off. Such faux protests only do more harm to the cause than good. In fact, what such troubled times bring out is great leadership skills. Odisha CM announced free travel and lodging for all aspirants. Wonder what stops other govts. from doing so if all they care about is life of the student. This disease is here to stay and when it comes to business , people want to unlock, when it comes to political protests they hit the roads with their masks down, but an exam conducted in a single day is fatal to some. The duplicity and hypocrisy stands exposed once again.

  7. Students are not favourites of the regime. The liberal air of a university campus feels unfamiliar, exotic, threatening. 2. The Opposition can choose between hanging together or singly. If many Congressmen do not accept RG’s leadership, unlikely that those from regional parties, natural allies, will. As Mistress of Spices of power for a decade, mother had no difficulty in having her status as Chairperson of the UPA accepted by all. In the political wilderness, son will not fare so well.

  8. Political parties, especially Congress n TMC shud stay out of it. This is the matter concerning the future if young men, else they stand to loose one year. Sitting for 3 hours in exam. hall will not expose them to such a great risk that they shud waste one year. We find life goes on in the metro cities and bpeople move about even in congested bazaars, lanes , n colonies. Barring a handful of candidates plus issueless oposition parties there seems to be no objection unless off course majority of candidates are willing to sacriffice one year.

    • It is not just one exam. Some students write both JEE Main and NEET.
      Some students will write both JEE Main and JEE Advanced.
      So if a student gets infected he may not be able to write the other exam.
      There should have been adequate spacing between the exams so that students can have chance of writing all the exams they have applied for.
      Hard choice for students and parents to make. Most of them will end up taking the risk anyways. For those who have health issues it would be better for such students to lose a year as life is more valuable than anything else.
      Central Education ministry and NTA should have worked with state governments to facilitate students accommodation and transport in parallel. It is obvious they did not think through this fully.

  9. The only genuine reason I found in above opinion to not hold exams would be in states which are currently resource stretched due to floods and virus outbreak, but central government should deploy resources in those certain states to support examinations. Rest of reasons are just excuses, good and bad bet should not stop an important proxess of country. Where I see two strong points for conducting exam.

    Firstly, Student would always wish to get exams postponed. I was always in top 10% and still wanted exams to get cancelled all the time. But this time they have reasonable good excuse to allow them to start protesting. Even then, as per most polls and interviews with students and parents, the majority opinion is that students don’t want to waste an year and are advocating for examinations to be conducted as scheduled with quite a desperation. Just because some student want to get exams postponed due to lack of sincerity ( not a bad thing to be insincere and in this situation I might have been one of them) we cannot let others who want to proceed with life as usual, suffer. The students protesting to get exams postponed always have the option to drop.
    Secondly, the human resource development aspect will be impacted by not having these examinations. If we don’t hold exam and resume College in time, we will have to hold exam next year with twice the number of applicant. Can we do that. Do we have resources to conduct exam like that and capacity in colleges, what if we do not come out of this situation by next year. I mean there might be a way. But certainly there is an impact on human development which will show impact after 3-4 years. Maybe it might be good to. Cannot be sure. 1 year gap of no new official unemolyement after 3-4 years. Government can start clearing up current unemployment backlog. But that is a bigger project which should not be because of exam cancellation. That 1 year must be utilised by having some kind of vocational course on usefull life skills, morality, physical training, discipline. Something like army service. But I digress, completely different topic. But in all we will create a concern for human development if exams are not held and students just wait one year.
    Overall, virus and floods should not derail human development not stop willing students to waste one year. Unwilling students can always drop.

  10. It is unscientific to say stop the exams without even thinking about repercussions by stopping. Yes.. opposition has morale responsibility to make sure the exams are conducted with utmost care and social distancing. They must clear this point to govt. Congress always stand on the wrong side, be it opposing revocation of article 370, JNU controversy, position taken in Bangalore riots… I wonder drive such decisions in CWC!!!!

  11. The exam should progress as normal. We can’t jeopardize the future of kids. Also, since almost all the students are for conducting the exams and only the opposition instigated few are opposing, Govt should and the courts should ignore them.

    • Where did you get the data that most of the kids are for the exams? And why ignore the opposition? They may be right. The problem is that Arun Mishra, the BJP loving Supreme Court judge gave the verdict. Any other judge and everyone would have been equanimous.

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