The Left parties on Thursday opposed the Centre's decision to hold the JEE and NEET exams in September amid the COVID-19 pandemic and said it completely undermines the health concerns of students. The JEE Main and the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET-UG) will be conducted in September as scheduled, the Ministry of Education officials had earlier said, amid a growing chorus for postponing the crucial tests in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the JEE Main is scheduled from September 1-6, NEET is planned on September 13. "Holding NEET-JEE exams now, with growing infections & deaths, would jeopardise the health of young aspirants. Reschedule these exams in a manner that an academic year is not lost," said CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury in a tweet. In a statement, his party said it was opposing the government's "unilateral" move to hold the exams.
"What is most outrageous is the insensitivity to hold these examinations in the physical mode across the country at a time when the pandemic is surging both in the number of infections, as well as, the mounting counts of deaths," CPI (M) Politburo said in a statement here. The month of August has seen an exponential increase in the number of COVID-19 positive cases across the country, it said, adding that during the same time period, the death toll has reached nearly 60,000 and there is no sign of the pandemic ending.
The Politburo said while the concern about starting the academic session in these institutions for the sake of the future of the students and those courses is valid and understandable, it's "grossly premature" to hold it at the moment. "It completely undermines the health concern for almost a million of some of the brightest of our youth," the statement added. On Wednesday, Chief Ministers from seven opposition-ruled states, at a virtual meeting, had decided to move the Supreme Court to seek deferment of these exams.
The meeting, which was organised by Congress President Sonia Gandhi, was attended by West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, Maharashtra CM Udhav Thackeray, Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren, Chattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel, Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot and Punjab CM Amarinder Singh. In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, CPI MP Benoy Viswam said NEET and JEE are the biggest entrance examinations organised in the country and despite the increasing spread of the pandemic, the National Testing Agency has chosen to hold these entrance exams in the month of September, "jeopardising the health and safety of lakhs of students."
In 2019, approximately 25 lakh students appeared for these two exams and a similar number of students are expected to appear this year as well.
"Students are scared to sit for these exams not just in fear of their own safety, but in fear of the safety of their families too. They have old guardians, heart patients, small siblings at home, who will be under serious threat if the candidates catch the infection at these crowded testing centres. "All these factors are causing additional mental stress on the students, causing many to not be in a fit mental state to sit for such fiercely competitive exams that will decide their future," the MP said.
Viswam said the decision to continue holding these exams despite the large scale protests by students across the country is highly "irresponsible" on behalf of the government and puts at risks lives of millions of students and their families.