‘Let’s go to SC’: Mamata Banerjee at Sonia Gandhi’s CMs’ meet over exams | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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‘Let’s go to SC’: Mamata Banerjee at Sonia Gandhi’s CMs’ meet over exams

Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By
Aug 26, 2020 06:50 PM IST

Mamata Banerjee urged all chief ministers to together move the Supreme Court for postponing the NEET and JEE exams to be held amid Coivd-19 pandemic as students are not prepared.

Chief ministers of opposition-ruled states on Wednesday resolved to work together and fight against the Centre for undermining the rights of states as they also decided to move the Supreme Court and seek a review of its earlier verdict giving go-ahead to the government in holding the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) and Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) in September.

Amid a growing chorus for postponing the JEE and NEET exams in view of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Centre has maintained that these will be conducted in September as scheduled.(ANI)
Amid a growing chorus for postponing the JEE and NEET exams in view of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Centre has maintained that these will be conducted in September as scheduled.(ANI)

In a virtual meeting called by Congress president Sonia Gandhi to discuss the issues of Goods and Services Tax (GST) compensation, NEET and JEE exams in the midst of Covid-19 pandemic, chief ministers of West Bengal (Mamata Banerjee), Maharashtra (Uddhav Thackeray), Jharkhand (Hemant Soren), Punjab (Captain Amarinder Singh), Rajasthan (Ashok Gehlot), Chhattisgarh (Bhupesh Baghel) and Puducherry (V Narayanasamy) stressed the need to protect federalism, claiming that all powers were now concentrated in just one hand.

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The Congress had not invited the chief ministers of Odisha (Naveen Patnaik), Delhi (Arvind Kejriwal), Andhra Pradesh (YS Jaganmohan Reddy), Telangana (K Chandrashekhar Rao) and Kerala (Pinarayi Vijayan).

For his part, Thackeray said the opposition-ruled states have to first decide whether they want to “fight or fear” the Modi government. “Opposition-ruled states should speak louder as the Centre is trying to suppress our voices. But we are together, we will be together and we will fight together,” he said

Thackeray promptly got support from Banerjee who said the situation was “very serious” and the opposition-ruled states should launch a united fight against the Centre.

Gandhi also endorsed Thackeray and Banerjee. “We have to work together and fight together,” she said.

Soren alleged the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was using agencies against the opposition and undermining the federal structure.

Earlier in her introductory remarks, Gandhi said refusal to pay GST compensation to states is “nothing short of betrayal” by the Narendra Modi government.

“GST compensation being paid to states on time according to the laws passed by Parliament is crucial and I know this is not happening. Dues have accumulated. The finances of all states have been affected badly,” she added.

The Congress chief said GST was enacted as an example of cooperative federalism and it came into existence because the states agreed to forego their constitutional powers of taxation in the larger national interest and on the solemn promise of compulsory GST compensation for a period of 5 years.

In the meeting of the standing committee on finance on August 11, she said the union finance secretary has reportedly stated that the Centre is not in a position to pay the mandatory GST compensation of 14% for the current year.

“This refusal to compensate the states is nothing short of a betrayal by the Modi government and a betrayal of trust of the people of India. On the other hand, the central government continues to profiteer from unilateral cesses which are non-shareable with states and corner this revenue,” added Gandhi.

The Congress president further claimed that ordinances have been issued without consulting states on agricultural marketing, saying the Punjab chief minister has already highlighted how these will destroy the MSP regime and adversely impact the PDS as well.

“There has been a nationwide outcry against the draft EIA notification which is deeply anti-democratic. Laws meant to protect the environment, livelihoods and public health are being weakened. The auction of coal mines too, I am aware, has been objected to by some chief ministers.”

Gandhi said public sector assets created over decades are being sold off despite some state governments expressing their strong opposition. “Six airports have already been given to private hands. The railways are the lifeline of the country and they are being privatised too.”

She said other announcements such as the National Education Policy were worrying as it is a “setback for progressive, secular and scientific values and reveals insensitivity” to what the states have been saying.

“Problems of students and examinations are being dealt with very uncaringly,” Gandhi added.

Banerjee urged all chief ministers to together move the Supreme Court for postponing the NEET and JEE exams as students are not prepared.

Amid a growing chorus for postponing the JEE and NEET exams in view of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Centre has maintained that these will be conducted in September as scheduled.

While the JEE Main is scheduled from September 1-6, NEET is planned on September 13. The Supreme Court had last week dismissed a plea seeking postponement of the two exams, saying a “precious academic year of students cannot be wasted and life has to go on”.

Banerjee alleged that states were being “bulldozed” by the Centre which is not giving money to them.

“The situation today is dangerous. We cannot speak freely. From Facebook to everywhere, there is fake and distorted news to destroy the opposition,” she said.

Banerjee said she had raised her concerns about the NEET and JEE exams with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“The exams are in September. Why should the lives of students be put at risk? We have written to the Prime Minister, but there has been no response. If the Prime Minister does not listen to us, then we all collectively should approach the Supreme Court,” she said.

“I request the state governments, let us do it together. Let’s go to the Supreme Court and request it to postpone it for the time being till the Covid-19 situation improves. We stand by our students, whatever help they require, we are willing to provide that,” the West Bengal chief minister added.

Thackeray said the time has come to revisit the GST model and see if it is helping or not. “The old tax collection model was good? If there are lacunas in the GST, those need to be addressed so that states don’t suffer,” he said.

Thackeray further said they were not “begging” before the Centre for the GST compensation as it is their money and they have to fight for it. “Maharashtra has not got the GST refund from the Centre. We keep reminding them by writing letter after letter. Some letters do get replies but others remain unanswered.”

The Maharashtra chief minister said no one can suppress the voice of the opposition-ruled states because theirs is the common man’s voice and they are democratically elected like the Modi government.

Urging Gandhi to hold more such meetings, Thackeray reminded her about the “excellent Panchayati Raj decision” of late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi for decentralisation of power. “But today exactly the opposite is happening. Powers of all institutions are being concentrated in one person’s hand and that is not good for democracy,” he said.

Singh said the Covid-19 situation is getting worse and Punjab might face a deficit of Rs 25,000 crore this year due to the pandemic.

“I agree with Mamata ji that we should collectively meet the Prime Minister and apprise him of the revenue situation. And all of us should go to the Supreme Court on the issue of NEET and JEE exams,” he added.

Baghel claimed that the Covid-19 situation has aggravated while Narayanasamy said the Centre will be responsible if students get infected during the exams.

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