Published: 17th August 2020
Last thread of hope for life: 31 students who petitioned the SC against UGC guidelines ask the Prime Minister to cancel exams
The students who explain why neither online nor offline exams are possible also say that they are tired of the long, gut-wrenching wait for justice
Students who are fighting a case against the UGC to get exams deferred due to COVID, have now written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi hoping for some respite.
While the Supreme Court of India will hopefully decide the fate of the students and take a call on the new UGC guidelines on the conduct of the examinations on Tuesday, the student petitioners speak up about their 'long, suspenseful, gut-wrenching, agonising wait.' After the UGC asked the universities to go-ahead and conduct examinations before September 30, amid the pandemic, 31 of them from different parts of the country came together virtually and fight the cause. Theirs is one of the four petitions that is being heard by the top court now.
The students and their lawyers have on various occasions, told us about how both online and offline examinations are impractical for them. "Is this the price we have to pay for being the very own children of this country? How fair is this to us?" they ask in a letter that they've jointly written to the Prime Minister of India, asking him to cancel all examinations in the pandemic time. "One cannot baselessly vouch for a student’s safety during an offline exam in the midst of an unforeseen health crisis nor for his unrestricted access to the Internet at a time when his city/town/village has been devastated by floods. There is an urgent need for a uniform decision across all states and union territories of the country, as state autonomy will do no good for more than half of the student population due to many states’ unfeasible and rigid inclination to conduct examinations," reads the letter.
The students who say that they are 'hanging on this last thread of hope for life and equality" also question, "Is the UGC oblivious to the ground reality being faced on a daily basis by such students? If they aren’t, then shouldn’t they be displaying the least amount of empathy in the name of humanity? Does being final year students completely strip us off of our fundamental rights to life and equality?"
Here are a few excerpts from the letter:
We have posed these challenges as queries to the UGC in every hearing, yet haven’t yet been given a valid, practical and logical solution for it. For how long do we have to wait? This pandemic has wreaked enough havoc on all of our lives already and there seems to be no definite end to it anytime soon. Is it truly justified to put us through more trouble during such vulnerability? Do we have to fight additional battles when we have enough already to weigh us down during such testing times?
Another point worth a mention is the system of evaluation followed by most professional and degree programs in India. Students are given 25-50% of their final grades of a given semester via continuous and comprehensive internal evaluations in the form of paper-pen tests, projects, assignments, dissertations, presentations and so on. Why is it that intermediate year students can be evaluated and promoted on the basis of these scores while final year students cannot, when in fact both sets of students have to put in the same amount of effort to achieve good scores in these assessments?