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It is heartening to see some of the states have found a way to provide relief to young examinees of the JEE and NEFT following the Centre’s decision upheld by the Supreme Court by providing free transport and accommodation.

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s cue has been snapped up by some of the state chief ministers who have found an effective way to counter the Centre’s act-of-God plea on many an inconvenient developments caused by the Coronavirus pandemic. These aspirants for government jobs in future have found relief amidst face-the-exam-or-sit-at-home option they are confronted with.  

There is display of wide social empathy in Patnaik’s decision taken on August 28. Those students who cannot afford to arrange for their stay and commutation to reach the centers located in far off places for writing JEE and NEET examinations beginning from September 1. 

It is a formidable prospect for thousands of students to write examinations without putting at stake their health and lives due to COVID pandemic and accelerating spread of novel coronavirus. Their normal woes and anxieties arising out of rigorous preparations for these tough examinations got compounded because of persistence of the Union Government to go ahead with these entrance tests in spite of their appeals not to conduct examinations in COVID times. Even several Chief Ministers including Shri Naveen Patnaik appealed to the Prime Minister of India and Union Education Minister to defer the examinations taking into account danger posed by COVID and the serious flood situation caused by incessant rain. But all such appeals fell on deaf ears. The students mostly from far off and rural areas faced an insurmountable problem of getting access to transportation  and lodging facilities because the lockdown guidelines, to interrupt spread of virus,  prevented plying of vehicles and opening up of hotels. The magnitude of such problems got intensified due to uninterrupted rains and resultant flood which disrupted communication and paralysed whatever normal life people were allowed to lead with some degree of partial relaxation of lock down norms. 

Patnaik understood the students’ “man Ki baat” and did not view their problems as an act of God. The logistics were were put in place by the Government for enabling students to register themselves with the principals of Industrial Training Institutes to  avail of the transport facilities and accommodation was organised at several hostels for arranging the stay of students and their parents. The transport and police authorities were entrusted with responsibilities to ensure smooth and hassle free travel of students to examination Centre’s. 

Appeal of Odisha CM to MLAs and Odisha Mo Paribar to Stand by Students 

On 29th August Chief Minister in an appeal to Members of Legislative Assembles requested them to stand by the students and extend all support to them. The non political body Odisha Mo Paribar, Odisha my Family, established at his initiative  upholds the idea of fraternity and kinship of all Odias cutting across political affiliations and other barriers was also mobilised for reaching out to the students. Such persuasive  and caring approach embodied in the decision of Shri Patnaik had a pan Indian impact. 

Pan Indian Impact of Odisha CM’s Decision – Delhi IIT Director’s Appeal to Provide Transport 

Apart from wide coverage it received in the print, electronic and social media across the country it had a positive impact on influential decision makers in many fields. It was amply evidenced in a well articulated article “IIT Delhi appeals to alumni, ‘good Samaritans’ to arrange transport for JEE Advanced aspirants” authored by Kritika Sharma and published in theprint.in. (https://theprint.in/india/education/iit-delhi-appeals-to-alumni-good-samaritans-to-arrange-transport-for-jee-advanced-aspirants/492017/)

The article stated that “IIT Delhi Director V. Ramgopal Rao, in an appeal on Facebook Saturday, asked IIT alumni, students and “good Samaritans” to pitch in and help students access exam centres in view of the unavailability of adequate public transport due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Public transport like buses are still not available in some parts of the country.” It further added, “In his post, Rao appealed to the state governments and local administration to arrange buses and make special provisions for students taking examinations.” The Delhi IIT Director, as per the article, announced that apart from issuing the initial call for help through social media, would launch a portal soon to coordinate the efforts.

It is good of the Delhi IIT which is the organising institute for the Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) Advanced this year to have sensitively understood the crises faced by students and appealed to its alumni, good samaritans and even state governments and local administration to arrange buses and make special provisions for students taking examinations. 

Chchatishgarh,  Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan Govts decided in favour of students for free transportation 

It is heartening that after Odisha Chief Minister took the trend setting decision for students to have access to free transport and accommodation Chhattisgarh Government has taken a  similar measure on 30th August when Chief Minister Shri Bhupesh Baghel asked all district collectors of the State to ensure that all those candidates writing JEE and NEET would reach examination enters by availing of vehicles organised by the Government for them. The headline of the news item “NEET-JEE Exams: After Odisha, Chhattisgarh To Provide Free Transportation To Aspirants”  clearly indicate the lead provided by Odisha and its Chief Minister Shri Naveen Patnaik and the pan Indian impact of  his sensitive and caring decision in favour of the students of Odisha. 

(https://www.republicworld.com/india-news/education/after-odisha-chhattisgarh-to-provide-free-transportation-to-aspirants.html)

Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh Shri Shivraj Singh Chouhan also took a decision to provide free transport to students taking the examinations. 

(https://www.financialexpress.com/education-2/jee-neet-exams-2020-madhya-pradesh-chhatisgarh-govts-to-arrange-free-transport-full-details-here/2069953/)

Rajasthan Chief Minister also announced that free transport facilities would be provided to students writing JEE and NEET. 

The Union Education Minister appealed to all State Governments to provide all facilities to students of their respective States for enabling them to write the examinations. 

Yet another piece of writing under the caption “As other state CMs cry foul over JEE/NEET exams, Odisha CM does what he does best. He solves the problem” by Sanbeer Singh Ranhotra in TFIPOST is revealing and self explanatory. The article can be accessed by opening the following link. 

. (https://tfipost-com.cdn.ampproject.org/v/s/tfipost.com/2020/08/as-other-state-cms-cry-foul-over-jee-neet-exams-odisha-cm-does-what-he-does-best-he-solves-the- problem/amp/?usqp=mq331AQFKAGwASA%3D&amp_js_v=0.1#referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com&amp_tf=From%20%251%24s&ampshare=https%3A%2F%2Ftfipost.com%2F2020%2F08%2Fas-other-state-cms-cry-foul-over-jee-neet-exams-odisha-cm-does-what-he-does-best-he-solves-the-problem%2F)

The pan Indian impact of Odisha Chief Minister’s decision in favour of students and youth bring out the quality of his leadership in dealing with issues at the time of disasters, be they man made or natural,  and successfully address the challenges they face to their lives and the pursuit of education and other entitlements. Success in dealing with such challenges defines our nationhood and gives meaning and significance to nationalism which should be creative, constructive and life affirming. The pan Indian of  impact of decision of Odisha CM signifies such nationalism.

The author served as Officer on Special Duty and Press Secretary to President of India late Shri K R Narayanan and had a tenure in Prime Minister’s Office and Joint Secretary in Rajya Sabha Secretariat. He lectures in universities and writes on diverse issues including public policies. Views expressed in the article are in his personal capacity. Email snsahu58@gmail.com

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