Higher Education Secretary Amit Khare on Wednesday said that students risk losing an entire academic year if NEET and JEE examinations are postponed. His statement comes amid growing calls to postpone the entrance exams in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik called Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday morning requesting for postponement of the exams. Patnaik’s BJD is in alliance with the BJP in Odisha.
“The exams were to be held first in April, but were postponed to July. When a large number of students tweeted for further delay, they (exams) were pushed to September. Now, a section of students is demanding that the exams should be held after Diwali,” Khare told The Indian Express.
He said that exams could only be held in the first week of December then because the Chhatt festival would be celebrated in the eastern parts of the country on November 26. This would mean the results would be announced in 2021, he told The Indian Express, and students would risk losing the entire academic year.
Khare said that the decision has been taken in the “overall interest” of students, when asked about the strain it would put on the health of candidates.
Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal had told DD News on Tuesday that the Centre decided to go ahead with the exams because of “constant pressure from parents and students”.
While the Joint Entrance Examination (Main) is scheduled from 1-6 September, NEET-UG is scheduled for 13 September.
The National Testing Agency (NTA) has announced a number of steps it will take to safely conduct the exams. It said the number of exam centres has been increased, entry and exit of candidates will be staggered and arrangements have been made to ensure social distancing while candidates wait outside the centres.
Candidates will have to wear masks and hand gloves, according to NDTV, and they will also be required to carry a water bottle and hand sanitiser to the exam centre.
Demands for postponement
Opposition leaders and students have been demanding the postponement of the exams in view of the pandemic. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday urged the chief ministers of non-BJP ruled states to jointly move the Supreme Court over the issue.
Seven chief ministers agreed to the need for filing a review petition urging the top court to reconsider its order rejecting the postponement of the exams, PTI said quoting sources.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted that NEET-JEE aspirants are worried about their health and future. He urged the government to listen to their concerns and find an acceptable solution.
In a statement, Congress’s KC Venugopal said that the party’s state units will hold a protest on 28 August in front of central government officer at state and district headquarters. Social distancing protocol will be followed at the protests, he added. Congress will also organise a nationwide online campaign on the same day, Venugopal said.
Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia also asked for the postponement and said the central government should work on alternative methods for selecting students.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh suggested holding NEET and JEE exams online. “Let us all get together to move the Supreme Court for postponement of the exams, which are threatening the lives of lakhs of students,” he said.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray also said that the time is not right for holding the competitive exams and pressed on the need for postponing them, according to PTI.
(With PTI inputs)