Mounting pressure on the Modi government, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee asked all opposition chief ministers to jointly approach the Supreme Court for postponement of JEE and NEET exams in view of Covid-19 while Congress chief Sonia Gandhi contended that students’ problems were being dealt “uncaringly” by the Centre.
At a virtual meeting of Opposition CMs convened by Sonia Gandhi, Banerjee said, “This will be my request to all state govts, let us do it together, let us go to Supreme Court & postpone the exam for the time being until and unless the situation allows students to sit for exam (JEE/NEET).”
Banerjee said she had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi several times to intervene in the matter and urge the Supreme Court to review its decision in the interest of the student community. Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren contended that the Opposition CMs should go to Prime Minister or President before approaching the Supreme Court.
Last week, the Supreme Court refused to entertain a plea seeking postponement of JEE and NEET, scheduled to be held in September, saying that “life cannot be stopped” and the “career of students cannot be put in jeopardy”. Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal has said both the exams would be held next month as per schedule.
Sonia Gandhi said the recently announced National Education Policy was a setback to secular and scientific values. “Announcements such as those related to the National Education Policy should really worry us as it is actually a setback. Other problems of students and exams are also being dealt uncaringly,” she said at the meeting, which was also attended by Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray, Congress CMs Amarinder Singh, Ashok Gehlot, Bhupesh Baghel and V Narayanasamy.
Hitting out the Modi government over “attacks on the federal structure”, Banerjee said states were being bulldozed by the BJP-led Central government.
“The situation today…We cannot speak out, we cannot speak freely…from Facebook to everywhere…there is fake news, distorted news to destroy those in the oppositon,” Banerjee said. Soren said the ruling party was using agencies against the Opposition and undermining federal structure.
Asserting that “all powers are now getting concentrated in one hand”, Uddhav Thackeray said, “First we will have to decide darna hain ki ladna hain…ladna hain to ladna hain..we have to protect federalism.”
With the GST council scheduled to meet on Thursday, Sonia Gandhi said refusal to compensate states on GST was nothing short of betrayal by the Modi government.
“In the meeting of Standing Committee of Finance on August 11, Fin Secy, GoI stated that Centre is not in a position to pay mandatory GST compensation of 14% for the current year. This refusal is nothing short of betrayal on part of Modi government,” Sonia Gandhi said.
On her part, Mamata said the West Bengal government was yet to get Rs 53,000 crore from the Centre. “We can not talk. They are using the agencies against us,” she said.
Amarinder Singh said with the Covid-19 situation getting worse, the finances of states were completely down. “We’ve spent nearly Rs 500 crore. We’re in a situation where the finances of our states are completely down. Centre has not paid GST compensation,” he said.
Reiterating her party’s opposition to the draft environment impact assessment (EIA) notification, 2020, Sonia Gandhi called it anti-democratic and accused the Modi government of weakening laws to protect environment and public health.
“Ordinances have been issued without consulting states on agricultural markets. Draft EIA deeply anti-democratic. Public sector assets created over decades are being sold off,” she said.
The draft EIA notification, which involves the procedure of issuing environmental clearances to various projects, was issued by the Environment Ministry in March this year and has received thousands of suggestions from the public.
The meeting ended with Uddhav Thackeray saying that “we will have to work together and fight together”. Sonia Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee too echoed the same.
(With inputs from Manoj CG and Atri Mitra)