CHANDIGARH: Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Wednesday asked his state Advocate General to coordinate with his counterparts in other opposition-ruled states for filing a collective review petition in the Supreme Court, to seek deferment of the NEET-JEE exams.
He gave directive to AG Atul Nanda following a video conference meeting convened by Congress president Sonia Gandhi with the chief ministers of seven opposition-ruled states to discuss the key issues, including delay in GST compensation release, the farm ordinances and the new education policy.
"There was no time to seek time from the prime minister to discuss the issue," Singh said in response to a suggestion to this effect.
"Let us all get together to move the Supreme Court for postponement of the exams, which are threatening the lives of lakhs of students," he said.
He suggested that the JEE-NEET (Joint Entrance Exam & National Eligibility and Entrance Test) and other professional exams like medical and law could also be held online and there was no need to put the students at risk, according to a government release.
Stating that what the states were seeking was not the moon but their own dues, the CM also suggested that a delegation of all the opposition-ruled chief ministers should meet the prime minister to press for release of GST (Goods and Services Tax) compensation and financial assistance to fight coronavirus.
"We have given all the powers of taxation to him through the GST, and now they say they may not be able to pay. So how do we run our states?" he asked.
He called upon the opposition-ruled states to work together and fight for their rights.
The CM also said his government will be setting up a committee soon to assess the impact of the new education policy on the state's education system and finances.
"Every state has its own system, which the Government of India failed to take into account before announcing the policy," he said.
He pointed out that as of now, two days before the scheduled Punjab Vidhan Sabha session, 23 ministers and MLAs were COVID positive.
Singh said if this is the state of the legislators and ministers, one can only imagine how grave the situation on the ground is.
"The scenario was not conducive to holding physical examinations," he said.
The CM told the meeting that even on the issue of the mandatory final term exams for colleges and universities, despite repeated pleas and reminders, the University Grants Commission (UGC) had "failed" to take cognisance of his government's concerns.
He said while in schools, his government had already decided to promote students based on their earlier performance, the final term college exams issue remained a matter of concern.
"How can we have exams with COVID projected to peak in the state in September," he asked, adding that "I also want students to take exams and pass too, but how can I do this in the midst of the crisis?" Singh in the meeting also raised the issue of the Centre's decision to suspend the post-matric scholarship scheme for Scheduled Caste students, whose number in the state is a whopping 3.17 lakh.
"Given the acute fiscal crisis in the state, with no money even to pay salaries and fulfill other existing commitments, how do they expect us to pay for these scholarships too?" he asked.
On the financial crisis, the CM said the Centre's "failure" to release GST compensation after March 31, which is to the tune of nearly Rs 7,000 crore, had put Punjab in a difficult situation, amid rising coronavirus cases.
The state's COVID tally stands at 44,577 with 1178 deaths.
"If the Government of India does not give us our GST compensation how do they expect us to function," Singh said.
The states cannot manage on their own and the Centre needs to support.
"Punjab had received Rs 102 crore in two installments from the health ministry for COVID and Rs 31 crore as the third installment was due," he said.
The state needs money to fight the pandemic, which was now moving from the cities to the villages too, he stressed.
"The Government of India had allowed no revenue deficit grant on account of revenue loss due to COVID," he said, claiming that the "Centre did not seem at all interested in the problems faced by the states".