After a day-long online meeting of chief ministers of opposition-ruled states, the Congress on Wednesday announced it will hold protests across the country on Friday against the centre's move to push ahead with all-India entrance exams for engineering and medical courses amid the coronavirus crisis.
"In line with concerted opposition to this mindless and dictatorial move of the central government, Congress will be holding protests on Friday at 11 am in front of central government offices at state and district headquarters. They will oppose the decision of the government to hold these exams during the pandemic," Congress general secretary KC Venugopal said in a statement.
"While holding exams during Covid crisis has put students in a state of extreme mental stress, the grim flood situation in states like Assam and Bihar will further put students from those states at a severe disadvantage," Mr Venugopal said.
During Wednesday's meeting, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had suggested they should jointly go to the Supreme Court and seek to defer holding the Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) and the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET). After the meeting - Congress president Sonia Gandhi also attended - Punjab Chief Minister ordered the state's Attorney General to speak to his counterparts in other states and draw a blueprint for an appeal in the top court.
The centre has said it decided to hold the exams based on feedback from parents and students, who do not want to lose the academic year. The National Testing Agency that conducts key entrance exams in the country has also backed the centre's decision as an attempt "to save one academic year".
The NTA said if the entrance exams are postponed further, they will put students of government colleges at a disadvantage as against private college students who do not need to appear for competitive exams and have already started an online module.
A group of over 100 academicians on Thursday has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi showing support over the decision to hold the JEE and NEET next month. "Like every year, this time also, millions of students have passed Class 12 exams and are now waiting at home eager to take the next step. The government has declared its decision to conduct the JEE and the NEET… We wholeheartedly welcome this move," said the letter signed by over 100 academicians.