Kolkata: The National Testing Agency (NTA) on Thursday clarified it had decided to make available the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) (Mains) paper in Gujarati language as Gujarat was the only state to have approached it on the issue.
The statement came a day after West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee criticised the Centre for adding Gujarati as a medium for the JEE (Mains) and asked why all other regional languages, including Bengali, should not be included as well.
In its statement, the NTA said the JEE (Main) examination had started in 2013 with the idea of all the states admitting their engineering candidates through JEE (Main).
“The request was sent to all the states in 2013. Only Gujarat agreed to admit their candidates in state engineering colleges of Gujarat through JEE (Main) and requested that the JEE (Main) paper be made available in Gujarati language,” it said. “Further, in 2014 Maharashtra state also opted for admitting the engineering candidates in the state engineering colleges through JEE (Main). The Maharashtra state requested to provide the question paper in the language of Marathi and Urdu.”
Both states in 2016 withdrew the admission to the state engineering colleges through JEE (Main). “Therefore, the translation in Marathi and Urdu language was stopped. However, the translation of JEE (Main) question paper in Gujarati language continued on the request of Gujarat state. None of the other states have approached NTA to provide the JEE (Main) question paper in any other Indian national language,” it said.
Banerjee on Wednesday had criticised the NTA’s decision to provide the JEE (Main) examination papers in Gujarati and had threatened to hit the streets in protest.
Taking to Twitter, she said the Centre’s intention was to “malign all regions and regional languages”.
“Joint Entrance Exams so long were conducted in English and Hindi languages. Surprisingly, now only Gujarati language has been added. Such a step is not at all praiseworthy,” she had said.
Banerjee further said that her move is not against Gujarati and all she wants is for other regional languages to be included as well. “I love Gujarati language. But, why the regional languages were ignored? If Gujarati language can be included, then all regional languages, including Bengali should be there,” she said.
I love Gujarati language. But, why have other regional languages been ignored? Why injustice is being meted out to them? If Gujarati has to be there, then all regional languages including Bengali must be there. (3/4)— Mamata Banerjee (@MamataOfficial) November 6, 2019
Banerjee on Thursday raked up the issue of "discrimination" once again, saying, "If the central government is taking a decision, they should have asked the state government. How do we know? Are we God? We are not God, so how do we know what is in their mind? They should have informed the state government that, 'please send it (a proposal for inclusion of a regional language for writing the test)'."
Soon after the NTA's statement on Thurday, several BJP leaders engaged in war of words with Banerjee.
BJP West Bengal in-charge Kailash Vijayvargiya said on Twitter, "Dear Divider Didi, dividing people in the name of the language is not going to multiply your votes! To set the record straight, you never requested the exam to be held in Bengali."
Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani also slammed Banerjee in a tweet, saying, "Dear #DividerDidi, people of your state need development not such divisive stunts. Now that the facts are out, you should apologise to the people for your lies!"
Meanwhile, embarrassed over the NTA's statement, state secretariat sources said principal secretary in the West Bengal Department of Higher Education, Manish Jain, was asked to sent a fresh letter to the NTA to request Bengali's inclusion as one of the languages while preparing question papers of JEE (Main), 2020.
"I would like to draw your attention that vast number of candidates will appear for the ensuing JEE (Main), 2020, from West Bengal out of which majority of candidates are perusing their higher secondary (10+2) course in Bengali Medium School under West Bengal Council of Higher Secondary Education," said Jain's letter to the NTA. "From the information bulletin 2020 published by the NTA for appearing for the ensuing January JEE (Main), 2020 it is found that the medium of question paper shall be in English, Hindi, Gujarati.”
“A good number of brilliant aspirations from our state has reported that they will have to face some problems if the medium if question paper is made only in English, Hindi and Gujarati language. They also reported that as they are sitting for such an important career breaking competitive entrance test like JEE (Main) where equal opportunity should be offered to all the candidates," the letter said.
"So their demand to include Bengali is highly justified when JEE (Main), 2020, question paper will also be in Gujarati language. In consideration of the above, I would like to request you to consider and introduce Bengali and other regional languages also as one of the mediums while setting/preparing the question papers for January JEE (Main), 2020. to alleviate the grievance of the aspiring candidates from West Bengal," it added.
Addressing a press conference in Kolkata, Banerjee on Thursday claimed the West Bengal education minister had written a letter months back for also including Bengali for writing the examination, but that was not done.
Asked if only Bengali was being discriminated against, she said, "Not only Bengali, there is a discriminatory attitude towards all the languages, except one or two."
Recalling how a row had erupted after Union Home Minister Amit Shah pitched for Hindi as a common language, Banerjee said India is a vast country and there are many languages, caste, creed and religion.
"But one thing must be remembered that we are united, we are together because ultimately a united India is our motto," she said.
(With inputs from PTI)