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Sonia Gandhi calls meet with Mamata, 6 other CMs over NEET, JEE exams, GST; Uddhav Thackeray likely to skip

While the Joint Entrance Examination (Main) is scheduled from September 1-6, the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET-UG) is planned on September 13.

SNS | New Delhi |

Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi will hold a virtual meeting today with the chief ministers of seven states to discuss issues related to GST collection, financial loss incurred by states due to the COVID-19 and the JEE and NEET examinations scheduled in September that have triggered protests by students who are demanding that the entrances be postponed in view of the coronavirus pandemic.

The virtual meeting will take place at 2.30 pm.

Apart from Congress chief ministers of Punjab (Captain Amarinder Singh), Rajasthan (Ashok Gehlot), Chhattisgarh (Bhupesh Baghel) and Puducherry (V Narayanasamy), West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray and Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren are expected to join the meeting.

Meanwhile, it is reported that Uddhav Thackeray is unlikely to attend the meeting although the Shiv Sena is a coalition partner with the Congress and NCP in Maharashtra.

Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan could not get an invite call amid strong opposition from the Congress in Kerala, while Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal declined although an invite was sent to him.

While the Joint Entrance Examination (Main) is scheduled from September 1-6, the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET-UG) is planned on September 13. A total of 9.53 lakh candidates have registered for JEE-Mains, and 15.97 lakh students have registered for NEET.

There have been demands from several quarters to further postpone the entrance exams in view of increasing coronavirus cases.

Even after repeated requests from students, the National Testing Agency (NTA) once again on Tuesday said that the examinations will held on the scheduled dates. Last Friday, it had informed that the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) will be held as scheduled on September 13, while the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) will be held from September 1 to 6.

The NTA cited Supreme Court’s August 17 order: “We find that there is absolutely no justification in the prayer made for postponement of the examination in question relating to NEET UG-2020 as well as JEE (Main) April 2020. In our opinion, though there is a pandemic situation, but ultimately life has to go on and the career of the students cannot be put in peril for long and full academic year cannot be wasted.”

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Swedish teen climate change campaigner Greta Thunberg also threw her weight behind postponing the exams in view of the pandemic.

“It’s deeply unfair that students of India are asked to sit national exams during the Covid-19 pandemic and while millions have also been impacted by the extreme floods. I stand with their call to #PostponeJEE_NEETinCOVID,” she said in a tweet.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had sent a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday for the first time requesting the PM to postpone the NEET and JEE examinations. In her second letter written on Tuesday, Banerjee said Centre should consider appealing the Supreme Court decision on holding of the examinations.

“I am aware that the Supreme Court has given a verdict on holding of JEE and NEET examinations and the Central government had been issuing instructions to go ahead with it accordingly. However, I would like to request your kind intervention and to consider the Central government making an appeal to the apex court to review its decision in the interest of the student community,” Mamata wrote on Tuesday.

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had on Tuesday urged the Centre to postpone the NEET and JEE exams scheduled to be held in the first fortnight of September.

In a letter to Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, the chief minister urged the cancellation of the Joint Entrance Examination (Main) and National Eligibility cum Entrance Exam (NEET) in view of the COVID-19 pandemic and also direct the National Testing Agency (NTA) to open exam centres in all 30 districts of the state.

The chief minister also said that Odisha has got vast tribal pockets which are in virtually inaccessible areas, far away from the urban centres in the state.

Earlier last Friday, BJP MP Subramanian Swamy had sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention to direct the Education Ministry to postpone NEET and JEE till Diwali, and even warned of suicides by youth if the tests were not deferred.