The Opposition on Wednesday launched an all-out offensive against the Centre over the issues of GST compensation to states and its decision to conduct NEET and JEE exams next month amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis. 

In the virtual meeting of chief ministers of opposition-ruled states, chaired by Congress interim president, the opposition leaders said that there was need to work and fight together agianst the Centre. 

In her introductory remarks, Sonia Gandhi said she agreed with West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee and Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray Thackeray that all opposition-ruled states should together fight the Centre for their rights.

“We should decide whether to fear or fight the Central government. Opposition chief ministers should speak louder as the Centre is trying to suppress our voice,” said Thackeray.  

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

“Let us go to the Supreme Court. Let us talk about this matter. This is a mental agony for students. I have not seen so many atrocities in a democracy. The situation is very serious. We have to speak up for the children,” Mamata said. 

On Tuesday, she had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi the Centre should go in appeal against the Supreme Court order for holding the JEE and NEET examinations during the COVID-19 outbreak to ensure the aspirants are free from “mental agony”.

Sonia said announcements like the National Education Policy should worry the opposition as they are a setback for secular and scientific values and reveal the “insensitivity” of the government. On students’ problems and the issue of exams arising out of the pandemic situation, she said it is being dealt with uncaringly by the Centre.

Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh also reiterated the need to approach the top court against the NTA’s decision to conduct the competitive exams amid the pandemic. 

Fearing spread of virus due to the exams, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray quoted a report for the US which said that about 97,000 American students were infected by COVID-19 after the reopening of schools.  

Amid the rising clamour for postponement of the crucial exams in view of rising COVID-19 cases, the Ministry of Education (MoE) officials had reiterated on Tuesday that the exams will be conducted as per schedule in September.

While the NEET is planned on September 13, engineering entrance exam JEE Main is scheduled from September 1-6. Around 9.53 lakh candidates have registered for JEE-Mains and 15.97 lakh students have registered for NEET.

GST Compensation

Sonia Gandhi said the Centre’s refusal to reimburse the states was nothing short of betrayal of the people by the Modi government.

“In the meeting of Standing Committee of Finance on August 11, the Finance Secretary stated that the Centre is not in a position to pay mandatory GST compensation of 14 per cent for the current year. This refusal is nothing short of betrayal on the part of Modi government,” she said. 

She also termed the draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) legislation as “anti-democratic” and alleged that the laws to protect the environment and public health are being weakened by the Modi government.

Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren said the ruling party was using agencies against the opposition and was undermining the federal structure.

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