West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday called for postponing the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test and the Joint Entrance Examination amid the coronavirus pandemic. Her statement came amid Centre’s refusal to delay the exam. JEE will be conducted from September 1 to 6, while NEET will be held on September 13.

“Now with the directive of Ministry of Education to conduct NEET, JEE 2020 in September, I would again appeal to the Centre to assess the risk and postpone these examinations until the situation is conducive again,” the chief minister tweeted. “It is our duty to ensure a safe environment for all our students.”

In another tweet, Banerjee said she had also been vocal against University Grant Commission guidelines to finish terminal examinations by the end of September. This would put the lives of students at risk, she added.

The chief minister also wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying the decision to conduct exams has a “huge potential” to put students’ lives at risk, ANI reported. “We should not put any lives in jeopardy during this pandemic by taking such unilateral, bureaucratic decisions,” she wrote. “The students are the assets of the country and future of the world.”

She urged Modi to consider the health risk involved in conducting the examinations. “The central government must not take a decision for which students feel upset and also to ensure that students are not deprived of the opportunity to take examination...It is our duty as elders to ensure a safe public environment for all our students in the country.”

Various Opposition party leaders have demanded that the NEET and JEE exams be delayed.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in a tweet said that the government must listen to the students who have been asking for the postponement of the exams and should arrive at an acceptable solution.

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, general secretary of the Congress, said that the situation with respect to the coronavirus is not conducive. If students and their parents have expressed concerns regarding the situation, then the government and testing agency should make a note of it, she added.

Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia alleged that the government is playing with the lives of students and requested that the government cancel the exam and arrange an alternate way of admission for this year.

The Supreme Court had allowed the National Testing Agency to conduct the JEE Main and NEET 2020 exams in the month of September. The NTA has also clarified that that almost all candidates have been provided their first choice of centres.

India’s coronavirus tally on Monday rose to 31,06,348 cases after the country reported 61,408 new infections in 24 hours. The country’s toll rose by 836 to 57,542.