Upset with the University Grant Commission’s decision to conduct university and college final year exams in September despite the present Covid 19 crisis, Shiv Sena's Yuva Sena headed by Aaditya Thackeray, who is the Maharashtra Minister of Tourism and Environment on Saturday filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court challenging the UGC’s guidelines on final exams. The Yuva Sena's move has received support from the Maharashtra Youth Congress.
The Yuva Sena has prayed that each university be allowed to chart out its own plan of action with respect to the Terminal semester/final year examinations depending on the local conditions in their respective states to provide relief to students. Aaditya and Yuva Sena have said they will firmly support the justice and rights of the students of India.
Aaditya in his tweet said: '' A humble prayer has been made to save lives of lakhs of students, teachers, non teaching staff and their families by asking UGC to not to be stubborn about enforcing examinations. We believe that academic excellence can't be judged by one examination and for academic excellence we must calculate the aggregate marks of the past semesters.''
He further said, “The petition is for each and every student across the country, being forced to appear on an examination an absolutely bizarre judgement of the situation by UGC and non flexibility when it comes to human safety.”'
Yuva Sena’s petition comes days after the Disaster Management Committee headed by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has reiterated its earlier decision to cancel the final year examinations in Maharashtra during the present Coronavirus pandemic. Minister of Higher and Technical Education Uday Samant categorically said the government does not want to hold exams endangering the lives of more than 9 lakh students and appealed the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development and UGC not to make it an ego issue.
The petitioner said Covid-19 is a National Disaster in view of which UGC itself should have cancelled the final year examinations and arrived at a fair and uniform criteria for declaration of results and should have circulated it for adoption among the Universities in India. ‘’However, it seems the UGC has not understood the full extent of the dilemma that the country is currently facing. It is using its power and authority to make mandatory for universities to conduct examinations can be avoided. With India’s Covid-19 patients’ total crossing the 10 lakh mark today, India’s condition is rapidly deteriorating from its current position of third worst affected country on the Global Covid-19 scale,’’ the petitioner added.
According to Yuva Sena, every academic year usually starts in June-July. Apart from the health and safety of the students, exams conducted in the month of September will pose further challenges including but not limited to paper checking, but also when to declare examination results and admissions to post-graduate courses. Besides, if examinations are conducted by the universities and colleges there are issues relating to network connectivity in rural areas versus those in urban areas, risk of increased transmission of Covid-19 among students. In addition, it will also involve the physical presence of a large number of students in enclosed spaces.
Yuva Sena has submitted that the country's major educational institutions along with the governments of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Puducherry and others have already cancelled final year examinations. ‘’The UGC has not granted respite to students yet. Under normal circumstances, UGC, by the authority it has over the country’s universities, issues instructions to them from time to time. However, in these unprecedented times of Covid-19 pandemic when the provisions of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 and the Disaster Management Act, 2005 have been evoked, the UGC’s stance of insisting on conducting final year examinations/session examinations and not to grant relief to students is very sad. If the UGC goes ahead with it, it may also prove to be difficult to implement and may not be safe as well,’’ it added.