by Raashid Andrabi
SRINAGAR: Anguish continues to grow among students in Jammu and Kashmir as they face the possibility of being forced to skip the Common University Entrance Test (CUET) due to the distant allocation of examination centres in Punjab. This decision has sparked concerns among students and parents altogether, particularly those from poor backgrounds who cannot afford the boarding and lodging costs associated with the allocated centres.
Areeb Ali, an aspiring undergraduate student at CUET from Baramulla, expressed her deep uncertainty and worry regarding the impact of the ongoing exam centre crisis on her future. She lamented the inclusion of “preferences” in the form, stating that they were not taken into consideration at all. Despite selecting Baramulla and Srinagar as her preferred exam centres, she was assigned one in Jalandhar, a location unfamiliar to her. This situation has added to her anxiety, as she finds it extremely challenging to travel to an unfamiliar place for the exam.
She is not alone. Areeb’s experience resonates with the frustration and distress faced by numerous students who had expected their exam centres to be allocated based on their preferences. The allocation of exam centres in distant locations not only undermines their ability to perform at their best but also adds unnecessary stress to an already demanding process. The anticipation of sitting for an exam in an unfamiliar place compounds their anxiety and further hampers their performance, she said.
Aafiya Mehraj, another aspirant from the remote area of Sheeri in Baramulla, has made the difficult decision to skip her exams. The financial burden of travelling to her exam centre in Punjab is too high for her to bear. Aafiya is alone in this fight, as her parents cannot afford to send her outside the state. Moreover, her parents express concerns about her safety, considering she would have to travel alone as a girl. Faced with these challenges, Aafiya is now contemplating alternative future choices.
The stories of Areeb and Aafiya highlight the systemic issues and hardships faced by students from marginalized regions. These students, who often lack access to resources and opportunities, are now burdened with additional obstacles in pursuing their education. The current exam centre crisis not only deprives them of a fair chance but also perpetuates a cycle of disadvantage.
Political class took its time in understanding the crisis. Now, they are angry over the happenings.
Dr Farooq Abdullah, the President of the Jammu and Kashmir National Conference and Member of Parliament from Srinagar, has voiced his support for the students’ concerns.
JKNC President Dr. Farooq Abdullah has assured the students that he will speak to the Education Ministry and urge them to establish examination centers within J&K for the upcoming CUET.pic.twitter.com/hZkk71WuAT
— JKNC (@JKNC_) May 18, 2023
In a statement to the media during his condolence visit to Hassanabad, Rainawari, he emphasized the need for exam centres to be allocated locally, in line with the choices made by aspirants during the form-filling process. He criticized the decision to move the exam centres outside Jammu and Kashmir, stating that it adds an undue financial burden to families already struggling to make ends meet.
Party spokesperson Imran Nabi Dar also strongly criticized the decision, particularly the allocation of examination centres in Haryana and Punjab for Kashmiri aspirants. He called for an increase in the number of examination centres within Kashmir itself, as the region has the capacity to accommodate the aspirants. Dar highlighted the exorbitant travel and boarding costs, which are beyond the means of the majority of students.
Expressing his concern, Altaf Bukhari, Apni Party President emphasized the difficulties faced by these students who are compelled to travel outside of Jammu and Kashmir to take their exams. “I am told that the entrance exam centres for the J&K aspirants seeking admission to various undergraduate courses have been set up outside the Union Territory (UT). This arrangement is likely to result in significant inconvenience for these students, as they will have to bear the expenses associated with travel and accommodation,” he said.
Deeply concerned for Kashmiri students preparing for #CUET Exam with exam centre allocation outside the state. Unfavourable for economically disadvantaged students. Urgently requesting @EduMinOfIndia to reconsider and reallocate centres within Kashmir. #AltafBukhari
— Altaf Bukhari (@SMAltafBukhari) May 17, 2023
Bukhari further pointed out that such a situation would pose a particularly burdensome challenge for students from marginalized communities who may not have the financial means to undertake such journeys. He appealed to Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha to intervene and ensure that exam centres are established within Jammu and Kashmir for the convenience of these students.
CPI (M) Leader M Y Tarigami also lamented about the crisis by taking on twitter. “National Testing Agency conducting exams for various UG courses have designated the examination centres of most of J & K students outside the region, making it challenging for them to write their exams. Poor students lack wherewithal to pay for the travel expenses.”
National Testing Agency conducting exams for various UG courses have designated the examination centres of most of J & K students outside the region, making it challenging for them to write their exams. Poor students lack wherewithal to pay for the travel expenses.
— M Y Tarigami (@tarigami) May 17, 2023
Senior BJP leader Devender Singh Rana joined the chorus of voices seeking intervention in the matter. He appealed to Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha to set up examination centres within Jammu and Kashmir, expressing surprise at the decision of the National Testing Agency to allocate centres outside the union territory.
Rana stressed the need for tests to be conducted locally at the district or tehsil levels, as this would avoid discouraging financially disadvantaged students from undertaking journeys outside the union territory.
As the anguish and distress among students in Jammu and Kashmir continue to mount, it is hoped that the concerned authorities, including the National Testing Agency, will take prompt action to address the genuine grievances raised by the aspirants. The allocation of examination centers within Jammu and Kashmir, in accordance with the choices made by the students, is seen as a reasonable and necessary step to alleviate the financial burden and hardships currently faced by these aspiring scholars.