Uday Samant
Uday Samant

Amidst the raging controversy over the cancellation of final year examinations, Maharashtra Minister of Higher and Technical Education Uday Samant has questioned the locus standi of the Union Home Ministry in the matter of giving permission for holding such exams during the present Covid 19 crisis.

He has also objected to UGC's move to issue fresh guidelines for compulsorily conducting these exams. In an exclusive interview with the Free Press Journal, Samant said the state government is firm on not to hold these exams, adding that it will do everything to protect the health of the students.

Q: 13 Vice Chancellors have sought the intervention of the Governor to checkmate you: What is your view?

A: In their letter, the VCs have said that during the present Covid-19 crisis students are not mentally ready to appear for exams. However, the UGC, in its revised guidelines, has instructed that exams be held but the state government has already announced the cancellation. So, there is an utter confusion and, therefore, they have approached the Governor BS Koshyari, who is the Chancellor of these universities to find a way out.

Q: What is the logic behind not holding examinations?

A: Maharashtra was the first state to announce a decision to cancel final year exams by offering an option to students to appear, whenever they are held.

Subsequently, nine other states have also followed suit. The decision was taken at the Disaster Management Authority (DMA) headed by the Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and not under the government rules and regulations.

The DMA has adequate powers to overrule existing norms during emergencies. During the DMA meeting, these 13 VCs have supported the cancellation of exams.

Therefore, I want to clarify that the government has not taken the decision by overruling the universities. But it was with the sole intention of protecting the students.

Furthermore, VCs have submitted me a letter with a suggestion to give directly degree certificates to students, instead of an option of appearing for exams whenever they are held. But the VCs further said that universities cannot declare exam schedules due to the Covid-19 crisis. VCs have also recommended that students pass without taking the ATKT exam.

It is quite unusual how the Union Ministry of Home can grant permission allowing thousands of colleges and universities to conduct examinations while following safety guidelines. It is also quite strange why the UGC is adamant and making it an ego issue? Ten states including Maharashtra with more than 30 crore population have pressed the HRD and the UGC for the cancellation of exams. Only BJP ruled states want exams. 

Q: Will Maharashtra Government blink and hold exams? Will you be able to mobilise the manpower and put the machinery in place?

A: The state government is ready to do everything for the safety of students. It will not hold exams in the present circumstances. If some Vice Chancellors hold exams, it will be at their risk. If students get infected with Covid-19 then I will instruct filing of a first information report (FIR) against those VCs and Registrars of Universities for playing with the lives of the students.

The department has no robots to set exam papers. It has to mobilize thousands of personnel to set exam papers and get them printed. The department will have to organise state transport buses for transportation of papers and personnel. As per the guidelines, only 20 students will sit in every class room; so, count how many classrooms the state needs to accommodate 9 lakh students in the state. It is simply impossible. The exam schedule -- from paper setting to results -- is 100 days.

Further, several private and government colleges have been acquired for quarantine purposes. Nearly one month will be needed for sanitization and other safety measures. This will not be possible.

Q: However, there is a criticism that students, who will be given a degree certificate, will be dubbed the Covid-19 batch and may face problems ahead. What is your take?

A: It is so unfortunate that critics, while targeting the state government, are blaming the students. This is quite an irresponsible act. Students are trolling those targeting them on this issue. If students will not appear for exams what will the UGC do? Therefore, I want to reiterate that the state government will stick to its decision.

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