The West Bengal government on Thursday wrote to the Centre objecting to its directive to universities and other academic institutions to conduct final-year examinations by the end of September, PTI reported. It urged the Ministry of Human Resource Development to reconsider the matter in the interest of the physical and mental well-being of students amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The University Grants Commission on July 6 had said that final-year undergraduate and masters students would have to appear for exams to get their degrees. It said the terminal exams would be conducted by the universities or institutions by the end of September. It added that exams can be held online and offline or a mix of both mediums. In case a student cannot appear in September, provisions will be made so she can take the exams later.

However, in a letter to the Centre, Principal Secretary of Department of Higher Education and School Education Department, Manish Jain, said that states should be allowed to make its own decisions on the matter. He added that the Centre’s guidelines issued through the July 6 advisory to mandatorily conduct the exams is against the spirit of the Constitution, as education is placed in the concurrent list. The state government was not even consulted by the University Grants Commission despite sending a request for consultation, Jain claimed.

“With the current trend of rise in Covid-19 cases since April, we are not sure whether the situation will be conducive for the conduct of offline examinations by September in a vast country like India,” the letter stated. “Considering a vast section of students are still deprived of net connectivity as well, it will not be appropriate to hold online exams.”

Jain underlined that many educational institutions in West Bengal are being used as quarantine centres. “Due to restrictions on rail movement and cyclone Amphan damages, West Bengal had issued an advisory for universities, giving due weightage to internal assessment and performance of candidates in previous semester to ensure transparency,” he added.

Therefore, this decision to conduct the examination by September will not only affect public health, but also have an economic impact on students who would be put at a disadvantage vis-à-vis students of other autonomous universities or students of other countries, he said.

Several states have already cancelled their college and university examinations. This includes Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Odisha, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal. Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu has constituted an 11-member committee to recommend a decision.

UGC regulates 945 universities across the country, including 412 state universities and 53 central universities. All educational institutions have been closed since March, although many have started online classes.

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