This is not a college debate competition where an impressive and sharp comment could fetch you some claps (and perhaps an encouraging smile from your crush in the audience). This is a real life today full of obstacles and omnipresent Corona virus in every nook and corner of the country.
Over three million have been infected, a few thousand are dead, two crore have been rendered jobless due to lockdown, GDP is nosediving, cities have become ghost towns, people are scared to step out despite relaxations in guidelines, and there's hardly any public transport. The scale of the pandemic is so huge that probably for the first time in India post-independence that a vast majority is exercising it's 'right to life' as enshrined in the constitution.
Modi government is precisely denying it to 25 lakh aspiring students by forcing them to undertake JEE/NEET examination early next month by making outlandish arguments which will fetch it a few claps from the affluent section of the society.
No wonder all seven non-BJP ruled states chief ministers opposed the exams at this juncture vehemently yesterday in a video Conference chaired by Smt Sonia Gandhi.
The most vociferous Mamata Didi proposed filing a review petition in the supreme court quickly which all agreed to. Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray in his inimitable style asked if we are going to be intimidated or fight it out, making his intent to fight crystal clear.
There are reports today that AAP government in Delhi & AIADMK government (interestingly a BJP ally) in Tamil Nadu have also decided to oppose the exams.
National Testing Agency (NTA), a central government body may make tall claims that it is well prepared for the exams. But it's the state governments who will face the aftermath. We have seen the disaster caused in USA when just one school opened. Here too as usual, there's no thought behind this madness of conducting the exams.
Does this continental size country have the infrastructure to conduct such critical examinations, already stretched to its capacity? How will students travel to limited examination centres from remote areas? (Remember, Bihar and Gujarat are reeling under severe floods).
What about their accompanying parents, particularly with girls, many co-morbid and vulnerable will protect themselves from a possible infection? Where can the government procure the necessary manpower to hold the exams smoothly with all physical distancing norms observed in totality?
What if these kids, well ensconced in the safety of their houses till now, go back as carriers of the virus and we see another unmanageable spike in the COVID 19 cases? And will these students be in a right frame of mind to appear for such a critical examination?
If you think this is madness, yes, it is indeed. But there's a method to this madness. You better know that many from rural areas will choose not to appear, effectively reducing the competition for Modi's vote bank, the urban, upper, well-endowed middle class.
Those who can manage to appear still will be in the harm's way is something that cannot be turned a blind eye to. Given a student gets only two opportunities to try his/her luck with JEE/NEET, desperation will compel even the urban lower middle class not to miss this rat race.
Only three days ago there was news report that 61% students who secured admissions in foreign universities have opted out. Such is the degree of fear among rich & wealthy. Government is exploiting this to the fullest.
Modi is a 24×7 politician. He is habituated to cockamamie. These and such are not rare happenstances. Whether it was demonetisation, GST, dramatic proclamation of the lockdown with no prior notice to migrant labourers, or forcibly going ahead with these examinations. These are "events" for him with scant concern for repercussions. When you see that CBSE, National Law School, Chartered Accountants exams are kept on hold until severity of the pandemic is brought under control, what is so sacrosanct about JEE/NEET?
His double standards stand exposed.
Day before yesterday I watched Rajdeep Sardesai's prime time program. "Would be engineers & doctors through JEE/NEET must imbibe bravery from this young age", an idiot BJP spokesman said.
I was aghast. The gentleman doesn't know there is a vast difference between courage and foolhardiness. Let me enlighten him with a small lesson in history.
Towards the end of WW II, when allied forces from the west and Russian army from the east entered Berlin, they encountered to their horror 14 to 16 years old German "soldiers" offering whatever little resistance they could with the rifles they could barely hold still in their feeble hands.
British General Montgomery writes; "We had to issue strict orders to our troops not to kill these kids as far as possible and take them into custody alive instead. It was nauseating to see that Hitler's fascism had no qualms to feed these teenagers to enemy bullets to serve his political ambitions!"
Modi government is feeding our young generation to coronavirus s as if feeding a peacock!
Dr Jitendra Awhad is the Maharashtra Housing Minister & senior NCP leader.