More than 100 academics and scholars on Wednesday night wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in favour of conducting the NEET and JEE (mains) exams scheduled for the first week of September.
"Youths and students are the future of the nation but in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, clouds of uncertainty have gathered over their careers too. There are lot of apprehensions about admission and classes which need to be resolved at the earliest," they said in their letter.
Like every year, this year too millions of students have passed their Class 12 exams and are now waiting at home to eagerly take the next step, the letter said.
"The government has announced the dates for JEE-Mains and NEET any further delay in conducting the exams will result in waste of precious year for students. The dreams and future of our youth and students cannot be compromised at any cost. However, some are trying to play with the future of our students simply to propel their own political agenda and oppose the government," it said.
The signatories include academicians from the Delhi University, IGNOU, Lucknow University, JNU, BHU, IIT Delhi and Indian academicians from foreign universities such as University of London, University of California, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Ben Gurion University, Israel, among others.
"We strongly believe that the central government will successfully conduct the JEE and NEET exams taking full precautions to ensure that the future of students is taken care of and the academic calendar for 2020-21 is rolled out," it added.
Among the signatories are former IGNOU chairman CB Sharma; Sanjiv Sharma, V-C of Bihar's Motihari University; Jayprasad, pro-VC of Central University of Kerala; Hiraman Tiwari, Ainul Hasan and Mazhar Asif, all from the JNU; Raghvendra Pratap Singh of the Lucknow University; and Venkat Krishna from IIT-BHU, among others.
Over 14 lakh admit cards for the medical and engineering entrance exams --NEET and JEE-- were downloaded after the National Testing Agency (NTA) released them on Wednesday, even as the issue was discussed extensively during a meeting of chief ministers of non-BJP ruled states who decided to jointly move the Supreme Court to seek deferment of these exams.
The issue, which has been a matter of intense public discourse for the past few months, has evoked contrasting views with many backing the holding of the tests arguing that not doing so would result in a zero academic year for students, while the Opposition and a section of activists demanding their postponement in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The issue also took political undertones on Wednesday with opposition leaders attacking the Central government.
While the NEET is planned on September 13, engineering entrance exam JEE Main is scheduled from September 1-6. Around 9.53 lakh candidates have registered for JEE-Mains and 15.97 lakh students have registered for NEET. These exams have already been deferred twice in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
JEE-Main was originally supposed to be held from April 7-11, but postponed to July 18-23, NEET-UG was originally scheduled for May 3, then pushed to July 26. They were postponed again and are now scheduled in September.
The letter of support came on a day when several political parties and leaders asked the Centre to postpone NEET and JEE examinations in view of the coronavirus pandemic. At a meeting chaired by Congress interim chief Sonia Gandhi, seven chief ministers of non-BJP ruled states decided to jointly move the Supreme Court on the issue.
Parties like the DMK and the AAP also joined the growing chorus against the holding of the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) and Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) at a time when COVID-19 cases are rising.
Batting for the students who are demanding postponement of the exams, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi urged the central government to listen to their grievances and find an amicable solution.
"NEET-JEE aspirants are worried about their health and future. They have genuine concerns of: fear of Covid19 infection, transport and lodging during pandemic and flood-mayhem in Assam and Bihar," he said on Twitter.
Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia separately said the medical and engineering entrance exams should be postponed and the central government should work on alternative methods for selecting students.
DMK chief MK Stalin welcomed the decision of the seven chief ministers to appeal to the Supreme Court for postponement of NEET and JEE exams and thanked Sonia Gandhi for her efforts. He said the Tamil Nadu government should also move the Supreme Court.