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‘In a country… where more than half of the population struggles to arrange two square meals… where the migrant workers… starve and walk barefoot to their hometowns, where people do not have a proper electricity supply… Are we just a land of affluent urban class people having unlimited access to all the facilities required to graduate?’

Aastha Khanna, a law student of Delhi University has written a scathing letter to the Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, Justice DN Patel, urging the court to safeguard the rights of the students in view of the government’s order to conduct final year examinations of students in universities.

Khanna has urged the Chief Justice “to take steps to serve the interests of all the stakeholders, regardless of their social or economic disabilities, by adopting an alternative model of examination and prevent the situation from culminating into an implicit acceptance of social injustice and uphold the values enshrined in the ever so reverential Constitution of India.”

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in its notification of July 6, permitted the conduct of exams by universities and institutions and ordered the universities to compulsorily conduct examination of final year students as per UGC guidelines and Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) approved by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Apart from this notification, a UGC notification of July 6 issued revised guidelines for university examinations for terminal semester students. In that the UGC has instructed universities to conduct exams in offline (pen & paper)/online/blended (offline + online) mode.

Khanna has stated that these guidelines for compulsory examination of final year/terminal semester students are in flagrant violation of the fundamental rights and moral values as they fail to take into consideration the “infrastructural disparities and insurmountable torment” faced by students from economically backward class due to lack of facilities.

Referring to a number of suicide cases, Khanna has stated that “such hardships even led to some unfortunate incidents in the last few months.”

She has further pointed out that when the idea of the online evaluation was initiated, many universities and colleges refused to conduct exams citing lack of infrastructure and provided relaxation to students. However, the revised order implies that these states will now be forced to change their stand. While it is unlikely that the number of COVID-19 cases will significantly decline by the end of September 2, 2020, it would be perilous to conduct examinations in the offline mode, despite social distancing norms. Considering all these factors, the online, as well as the offline exam system, seems unfeasible at the moment.

Pointing out the disparities existing in the country, Khanna further stated that “In a country like ours, where more than half of the population struggles to arrange two square meals for themselves, where the migrant workers had to starve and walk barefoot to their hometowns, where people do not have a proper electricity supply, where people in some parts of the country do not have access to internet service with reasonable speed and quality, how can the government issue guidelines based on its blatant assumption that all students have access to smartphones, laptops, personal computers, books etc? Are we just a land of affluent urban class people having unlimited access to all the facilities required to ‘graduate’?”

-India Legal Bureau

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