Bhubaneswar: The Naveen Patnaik Government in Odisha has taken a trend setting decision in the country by announcing to provide free transport and accommodation to the students and their guardians across the State, who cannot arrange facilities for their mobility and stay, for writing the JEE and NEET examinations scheduled in the first week of September 2020 in twenty six centers. It constitutes an exemplary step for reducing stress and anxieties of students who, throughout the country, were moving from pillar to post to postpone the entrance examinations keeping in my mind the threat posed by COVID pandemic to their health and well being.
There was no demand from any quarter, least of all from students, to do so. Yet the Naveen Patnaik Government proactively took the decision for the benefit of students large majority of whom hail from rural areas. They must have been at their wit’s end to travel to examination centers at least a day prior to the exam date and arrange for their stay when restrictions on movement of vehicles are still in place and hotel facilities are not available due to COVID pandemic. In doing so the Odisha Government has testified to its credentials as a caring Government sensitive to the concerns of thousands of students straining themselves to prepare for the examinations and confronting the danger posed to their very life on account of the accelerating spread of novel coronavirus causing infections, health complications and even death.
Naveen Appealed for Postponing the Exams
The decision to provide free transport and accommodation to students of Odisha writing the JEE and NEET was taken after the appeal of the Chief Minister Shri Patnaik to the Prime Minister of India Shri Modi and Union Education Minister to postpone the examinations did not get favourable response. The Chief Minister’s fervent appeal to the Union Government to defer the conduct of examinations was based on two factors – rising spread of COVID infections and incessant rainfall causing flood in many parts of the State. In face of such twin disasters Shri Patnaik thought it prudent to take up the cause of the students who are in despair to chart out a course of action which would safeguard their career and future prospects and at the same time not put at stake their very life because of COVID pandemic.
Free Transport and Accommodation would boost the spirit of students
Therefore, the heartening measure of the Government of Odisha to reach out to students in these crisis ridden times so that they get access to free transport and accommodation would provide the much needed balm to them and boost up their spirit. In these distressing times when despondency of people is at all time high the decision of the Chief Minister for providing free transport and accommodation to examinees and their guardians would relieve them of a huge botheration to arrange their own facilities for travel and stay. They are in the grip of stress and anxiety because of the strain caused by spread of COVID and the resultant lockdown and shutdown of most of the human activities. In such a grim scenario marked by hopelessness the decision of the Odisha Government to stand by the student community and provide them free transport and accommodation to write JEE and NEET examination amply bring out the care, concerns and humanistic spirit of the Government for safeguarding their future and forging their tryst with destiny.
Detailed logistics of Transport and Accommodation
By laying down the detailed protocol to facilitate the students to avail of the free transport and accommodation facilities the Government has made Industrial Training Institutes (IIT)as nodal units and JEE and NEET aspirants have been requested to register with Principals of these IITs by August 31st 2020 and provide necessary details. The total number of aspirants are about 33,000 students. Out of this huge number all those who would like to use the free transport and accommodation would get required help and support from the district administration, police and regional transport officers who have been entrusted with responsibilities to put in place all logistics and other necessary measures for smooth movement of students and their guardians to examination centers. The Government has arranged hostels of different ITIs, polytechnic institutes and engineering colleges, both private and government, to accommodate students.
It has been decided by the Government to relax lockdown guidelines and restrictions imposed on the movement of the people due to COVID pandemic and students and their guardians arranging their own transport would be permitted to move without any interruption by showing their admit cards which would be treated as passes.
Measures for free transport and accommodation are worth replicating in rest of the country
It is worth reiterating that the Government of Odisha consistently did take up the cause of the JEE and NEET aspirants. First it appealed to the Prime Minster to postpone the exams. In the absence of a favourable response it took the best course of organising free transport and accommodation for them so that they can write the crucial examination without any stress and trouble. When agitation and anxiety is gripping the minds of students because of COVID pandemic and persistent rains causing flood and disruption of communication channels , the decision of the Odisha Government to arrange free accommodation and transportation facilities for students so that they can reach examination centers without any hassles is truly inspiring. It is worth replicating in other States of our country. Such an exemplary decision of the Odisha Government deserves commendation. It reminds Mahatma Gandhi’s Constructive Programme which contained eighteen points out of which one dealt with students whom Gandhiji described as future of our country. The objective of that Constructive Programme was to attain independence of India by employment of non-violence and ensure progressive social change. Chief Minister Shri Patnaik who has emerged as the first public figure of India for advocating inclusion of non-violence in the preamble of the Constitution has yet again shown the way for rest of the country by taking up the cause of JEE and NEET aspirants and providing free transport and accommodation to them so that they could write the examination free from worry and pressure. In doing so he has lived up to the vision of Gandhiji who said in 1947 that democracy means promotion of welfare of the people.