The chorus for the postponement of Joint Entrance Examination (JEE Main) and National Eligibility Entrance Exam (NEET) got shriller on Tuesday after Chief Ministers of West Bengal and Odisha Mamata Banerjee and Naveen Patnaik joined the bandwagon of ‘nay-sayers’, citing the grim coronavirus situation in the country. The two exams, considered as among the most important, are scheduled to be held in September.
Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik shot off a letter to Union Minister of Education Ramesh Pokhriyal seeking the deferment of the two crucial nationwide entrance tests. Mr Patnaik said: “I would like to say that in view of the prevailing COVID pandemic situation in the country, it would be highly unsafe and perilous for the students to visit the test centres physically to appear in these tests. Besides, as frequent lockdown/shutdown is being enforced by the concerned district administrations due to sudden escalation of the COVID positive cases locally, the local transportation too gets disrupted.”
He appeared particularly concerned about what he mentioned as ‘the vast tribal pockets of Odisha having geographically inaccessible areas, far away from the urban centres of the state.’ He said it would be extremely difficult for the 50,000-odd students hailing from these tribal areas to travel long distances for giving their best in these entrance examinations. Mr Patnaik was also in favour of increasing the number of examinations centres from the current seven in the state to one each in all the 30 districts, when the examinations could be held at a more conducive time.
Interestingly, Naveen Patnaik throwing his weight behind the opposers of the exam in September, follows similar pitches made by Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister of his neighbouring state West Bengal, and DMK president M K Stalin of Tamil Nadu. The two separately appealed to the Central government to put off the two examinations until the COVID-19 pandemic, currently unabated, could be contained. These were not the only prominent leaders who batted for the postponement of NEET. Before them, Maharashtra minister Aaditya Thackeray, Congress former president Rahul Gandhi and BJP’s Subrahmanyam Swamy expressed their opposition for the holding of these examinations at such a critical juncture.
National Testing Agency (NTA) has scheduled to conduct the JEE (Main) and NEET, 2020 test for admission into the technical and medical courses between 1st - 6th September and 13th September 2020 respectively.
More than 50,000 students from Odisha are appearing for NEET and around 40,000 for JEE (Main) this year. Also, the NTA announcing examination centres for these tests in only seven townships of the state has become another major cause for concern.
Those who are opposing the timing of NEET and JEE Main examinations have failed to muster the support of the Supreme Court which has recently dismissed petitions challenging the conduct of these exams amid the coronavirus pandemic.