Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Sunday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to pay heed to the demands of the students and postpone the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test and the Joint Entrance Examination (Main) this year, amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Government of India must listen to the #StudentsKeMannKiBaat about NEET, JEE exams and arrive at an acceptable solution,” Gandhi said in a tweet, referring to Modi’s monthly radio program “Mann ki Baat”.

The Centre had on Friday dismissed any scope of further postponement of the exams, which are scheduled to be conducted in September. Higher Education Secretary Amit Khare referred to the Supreme Court’s directives and said the government could not waste an entire academic year of the students as it would jeopardise their careers.

Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi pointed out that given the rising number of Covid-19 infections, the atmosphere in the country was not conducive for examinations.

“Circumstances in the country regarding the coronavirus have not returned to normal,” she said in a tweet. “In such a situation, if the students who are taking the NEET and JEE examinations along with their parents have expressed some concerns, then the Government of India and the test-taking institutions should consider it properly.”

Aam Aadmi Party leader and Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia also insisted that the government should postpone the entrance examinations and instead opt for “a thousand safer alternatives” at its disposal. He said that by going ahead with its decision, the Centre was “playing with the lives of children”.

“Today in 21st century India, we cannot think of an entrance exam option? This is not possible,” Sisodia tweeted. “Only, the intention of the government should be to think in the interest of students, instead of NEET-JEE...There can be a thousand safer alternatives to NEET-JEE.”

Sisodia, who also holds the portfolio for education in the Delhi government, added that to assume the entrance exam was the only option for admission was “very narrow and impractical thinking”. “Educational institutions around the world are adopting new methods of admission,” he added. “Why can’t we do it in India? Where is it sensible to stake children’s lives in the name of entrance examination?”

India’s coronavirus tally breached the 30-lakh mark on Sunday morning after the country reported 69,239 new cases in 24 hours. The country’s toll rose by 912 to 56,706. Of the overall tally of 30,44,940, India now has 7,07,668 active cases, while more than 22 lakh people have recovered from the infection.