JEE-NEET row: ‘Listen to students’ voices,’ Sonia urges Centre as Cong holds nationwide protests

Opposition parties such as the Congress, the Trinamool Congress, the Shiv Sena and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) have demanded that NEET and JEE exams be deferred due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
File photo: Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi.(PTI)
File photo: Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi.(PTI)
Updated on Aug 28, 2020 09:21 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByHT Correspondent | Edited by Sparshita Saxena

The Congress on Friday held nationwide protests over Centre’s decision to hold the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) and Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) in September. Party chief Sonia Gandhi urged the government to listen to the voices of students and act according to their wishes.

Opposition parties such as the Congress, the Trinamool Congress, the Shiv Sena and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) have demanded that NEET and JEE exams be deferred due to the Covid-19 pandemic and floods in parts of the country.

However, the central government has repeatedly made it clear that the exams will be held as per schedule with due precautions.

Six ministers of opposition-ruled states – West Bengal, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand - on Friday also moved the Supreme Court seeking review of its order allowing the Centre to hold NEET and JEE exams.

The Congress also held an online campaign - ‘Speak Up For Student Safety’ – with its leaders and workers extending support to the students on the social media.

Also read: JEE-NEET row - Mamata challenges PM Modi to take impromptu opinion of students on ‘Mann ki Baat’

“I feel for you because you are now facing a very difficult situation. The issue of your exams, of when they should be taken up is the most important issue, not only for you but for your family,” Sonia Gandhi said in her video message to the students.

“You are our future. We depend on you to build a better India. Therefore, if any decision has to be taken regarding students’ future, it is important that it is being taken with your concurrence,” she added.

“I hope the government listens to you, listens to your voices and acts upon your wishes. This is my advice to the government,” Sonia Gandhi said in the nearly a minute-long video posted on the party’s Twitter handle.

The NEET is slated to be held on September 13, while engineering entrance exam JEE-main is scheduled between September 1 and 6. The Supreme Court had last week dismissed a plea seeking postponement of the two exams, saying, a “precious academic year of students cannot be wasted and life has to go on”.

Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi also urged the government to hold a conversation with students and take a decision after arriving at a consensus.

“NEET-JEE aspirants’ safety should not be compromised due to the failures of the government. Government must listen to all stakeholders and arrive at a consensus,” he tweeted.

Rahul Gandhi also tagged a video of him urging the government to listen to students and take a decision only after reaching a consensus.

“You are the students and you are going to take this country to new heights. Everybody understands what has happened over the last three or four months,” he said.

“Everybody understands the mishandling of Covid-19, the devastation that has been caused, the economic destruction, the pain that this country has had to bear. Now what I don’t understand is why you should be held responsible and why further pain should be imposed on you,” Rahul Gandhi told the students.

He alleged that the government has been incompetent, and asked why should the Centre force anything on students.

“It is important that the government listens to the students, they are wise, they have the interest of this country at heart and any decision that is made with regard to these exams is made after a conversation and after a consensus has been developed and this is my message to the government,” he said.

Rahul Gandhi urged the government to have a conversation with students and resolve this issue peacefully.

Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said the government cannot ignore the voices of students and those of their concerned parents.

“They are the future of our country. With the rising scale of the pandemic, is it fair to expose them to infection in this manner? Are they not our children too?” she asked.

Among those who joined the party’s online campaign by posting their messages and videos on the social media were senior party leaders such as Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mukul Wasnik, Shashi Tharoor, Manish Tewari, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Jitin Prasada and Raj Babbar.

Later addressing a joint virtual press conference with Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien, Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren said the Centre claims that thousands of students have downloaded their admit cards.

“I don’t understand what kind of argument is this. If that is the case, then if someone has the life insurance, does it mean that he will die soon?” he asked.

Singhvi said these six states represent not only 30 percent of India’s population, but also represent 30 percent of India’s geographical area.

“The mental status of our students, mental situation, mental illness and mental situation is probably more important than physical constraints. They are under pressure, they are under pain, they are under fear, with 6 months of Covid and they are suddenly forced because you threw yourself into a corner, without thinking of alternative for 3-4 months, into a sudden press button, magic button kind of thinking - start giving exams from September 1,” he said.

O’ Brien said the petitioners do not want the students to lose the academic year and the petition aims to ensure better safety and security measures for the students.

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