The surgical strike, implementation of GST, Pulwama attack and Covid-19 were not Modi Government’s real tests. The real test of their governance is in September, when more than 22 Lakh students will sit for NEET/JEE exams during this pandemic.
Let this editorial not misguide you by saying that the government’s decision to hold National Eligibility cum Entrance Exams (NEET) and Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) even during this pandemic is a welcoming step. This clearly manifests the seriousness with which the Indian government take these exams. It also shows the government’s concern towards the students’ academic year. But the concern and and outrageously audacious decision to hold exams are not enough. A blueprint must be given, with a promise of minimum damage and maximum safety.
The decision on NEET/JEE is PM Modi’s mantra of ‘Jaan Bhi, Jahan Bhi’. It is, we presume, to teach students the vicissitudes of life and that, despite all challenges, the life must go on. The rationale behind the decision is a dilemma that every stakeholder in these exams is faced with: what will be the state of student’s career if the exam is postponed or cancelled due to Coronavirus? Another reason, cited by the government, is to not allow the academic year to go waste.
Even 150 academicians who wrote a letter to PM Modi favouring exams, cited the same reason and further went on to say that “any further delay in conducting exams will result in a waste of a precious year of students. The dreams and future of our youth cannot be compromised at any cost.” The signatories of the letter include academicians from Delhi University, IGNOU, Lucknow University, JNU, BHU, IIT Delhi etc.
Thus, the bar is tilted towards the execution of examination. Education Minister, Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ recently reiterated that even students want to give the exam, thus the decision is fixed. However, this decision is analogous to a lion’s cave, and no matter how much one tries to justify that the lion is fast asleep, entry into the cave would still be calamitous.
It is severely putting millions of lives in peril, careers at stake, families on the brink of collapse, and the decision has, inevitably, favoured one class over another; a class that has resources to shield their ward from all dangers, or to even afford a year off.
#5 It's sad to see students appeal to politicians / administration / courts with clear logic and facts. The least they deserve is a patient hearing. Arushi also points out the massive issue of mental health issues – this mess is causing. #ExamsInCovidASuicide pic.twitter.com/cUrmhLx5Qb
— Akash Banerjee (@TheDeshBhakt) August 21, 2020
In this case, the government must come out with a concrete blueprint on how they are aspiring to hold an exam so large in size. Since we cannot afford a crisis like migrant worker’s exodus on foot, a blueprint with clear, concrete and creative ways to safeguard the lives of millions of students should be the first priority of the Education and Home Minister.
Though National Testing Agency (NTA) has come out with standard protocols, making masks, gloves and sanitizers mandatory, thermal testing at the entrance and has also increased the number of exam centres for both JEE and NEET, the protocols are far from being satisfactory. Such protocols can easily be averted in large gatherings, putting every life in jeopardy.
Another way government can hold exams is in phases. Just as our general elections are held in phases, conducted state-wise and are held for over a month; JEE/NEET can also be held in phases, or state wise. This will give the central and state government a better chance in keeping the protocols at the check and in providing better safety measures to students.
This will also give the government a chance to keep a watch of what worked and did not work in the first few states, thereby rectifying the errors and correcting the mistakes in other subsequent states.
A nationwide exam of more than 22 lakh students is a recipe for chaos, failure and a gamble of human life.
Not only that, the government, which does not want to compromise the students’ careers must also give every student equal opportunity. They must provide bus and transportation services to students coming from remotest areas of our country, and a special passage for students living in flood-hit areas such as Bihar, Gujarat and Assam or rain-hit districts of Kerala.
The Modi government has unleashed upon itself a Himalayan task. In a pandemic-hit country, where flood and torrential rain have obstructed the daily life in several states, where railways and bus services are not in operation and where economic activity is in doldrums; a nationwide exam of millions of students is an audaciously dangerous task which the government cannot afford to fail at.
Thus, the surgical strike, implementation of GST, Pulwama attack and Covid19 are not the real tests of PM Modi. The real test of Modi’s governance will be in September when students from all across the country will put their lives in danger to safeguard their future.
It is then when PM Modi’s most advertised expertise in governance will be scrutinized. It can be a turning point for BJP. A game-changer for Congress.
In the words of Subramanian Swamy, “Indian voters may suffer silently but have a long memory.”