The Supreme Court of India Credit: File image

Guwahati: The Union ministry of human resource and development on Thursday said that the final-year examinations in the universities would be held in September. “The terminal semester will be conducted by the universities by the end of September 2020 in offline (pen and paper) or online or blended (online + offline) mode,” the UGC announced.

Questioning this move, 31 petitioners from across 13 states and one UT have challenged the UGC guidelines in the Supreme Court. “This spells doom on many students belonging to the underprivileged section, who if an online exam is conducted won’t be able to appear due to the unavailability of smartphones or laptops,” said Bhaswati Choudhury, one of the petitioners from Assam.

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Additionally, many Northeastern states and others like Bihar are facing the additional problems of floods along with the COVID-19 pandemic. This further reduces the chances of movement if an offline exam is conducted. “Moreover, many students from the Northeast stay in places where network issues arise and due to flood there is also the issue of electricity,” Choudhury added.

Two hearings have already passed so far. “The first one occurred on July 23 but due to some more additional petitions from different states pushed by a political party on the same issue the date was rescheduled to July 31,” she said. Later, the hearing did not reach any conclusion on July 31 as well and the next hearing was rescheduled on August 10.

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According to the petitioners, that include four from Assam — Atiqul Ahmed, Annwesha Kalita, Angkita Killing, and Choudhury — want their results to be based on past performances and internal assessment marks. “Schools, colleges and coaching institutes are closed till August 31 and IITs, NLUs, CBSE, ICAI also canceled their exams. So why is UGC risking lives and futures of students and their families?” questioned Choudhury.

The students have recorded video appeals addressing Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union human resource development minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’. “We have been mailing the authorities constantly with our grievances as well,” said Choudhury.

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SC has also directed the MHA to make its stand clear and also asked state governments to file an affidavit as stated by Alakh Alok Srivastava, the advocate of the petitioners. However, UGC remains firm on its stand.

As they are still sorting through this mess, a students’ union from Maharashtra filed an intervention application, in this case, asking for State autonomy in this case. The petitioners are now concerned as if this happens there will be no benefit because most of the state governments will conduct exams. Choudhury added, “We will raise our voice that we want a uniform decision for all India.”

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Students doing a Twitter storm on Thursday with hashtags #StudentsAgainstStateAutonomy
Students doing a Twitter storm on Thursday with hashtags #StudentsAgainstStateAutonomy

With this in mind, on Thursday [August 6], the students undertook a Twitter ‘storm’ with hashtags #StudentsAgainstStateAutonomy tagging Varun Sardesai, Aaditya Thackeray, Abhishek Singhvi, Maharashtra Students Union. They are appealing students across India to follow their steps and speak out for their education and for their future.

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