Riyaz Ul Khaliq
Chief Minister Ms Mehbooba Mufti led PDP-BJP coalition “skipped” a crucial meeting over National Eligibility Entrance Exam (NEET) which was convened by BJP led Union Government on Monday.
After reservations expressed by various state government viz-a-viz NEET implementation, the Union Government had called two meetings on May 16, 2016 to discuss the issues raised by the states and the way out.
First meeting was chaired by Union Health Minister, JP Nadda, in which health ministers and health secretaries of all the states were invited to put forth their issues. However, Dr Pravin Shingare, Director of Medical Education and Research (DMER), said that only 23 states were represented in the meeting.
Later in the evening yesterday, Union Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley, chaired another meeting of all the political parties from all the states.
Under fire for “not resisting” the NEET extension to J&K which “undermined” the special status of the state, the PDP led government “skipped” the crucial meet in which it could have presented its case and the issues thereof. Unlike other things, the NEET extension faced stiff resistance from separatist camp this time.
Sources said that J&K Health Minister and Commissioner Secretary Health, Mandeep Bhandari, did not turn up in New Delhi to attend the meeting.
Instead of flying to Union Capital the BJP leader and Health Minister, Bali Bhagat, chaired DDB Meet of Kishtwar on Monday. “The NEET issue is much bigger than a DDB meet,” an official said, “we could have built pressure this time.”
Pertinent to mention, the CM and J&K Government Spokesperson, Naeem Akhtar, have been asserting that the “special status of J&K won’t be allowed to get diluted”.
However, given the fact that the two meetings convened by Union Government gave a patient hearing to the issues raised by state governments, the J&K Government missed it despite the fact that the NEET extension to J&K came under severe criticism.
“We will need more discussions with the state governments on the NEET issue. Today, we had discussions on language, syllabus and state governments’ concerns over state medical entrance examinations. We have to solve all the problems of the states before NEET is conducted across the country,” Union Health Minister, JP Nadda, told media after the meeting on Monday.
The state health ministry was briefed by the Law Ministry, ahead of the Monday meeting, about the issues which arise out of NEET extension to J&K but no one represented J&K in the two Delhi meetings.
After Supreme Court ordered implementation of NEET across India, J&K had raised objections and filed a petition invoking Article 370 and 35-A of Indian Constitution. After three hearings, the SC gave relief to Mehbooba led administration that only state subjects were eligible to J&K medical colleges but the students have to appear in NEET.
Hinting that Narendra Modi led Union Government will bring an Ordinance thus putting SC decision on NEET on hold for a year at least, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley asserted, “What should be the manner of holding the examination across the country is essentially an executive matter as it is in policy domain… It is the case of some of the states that boards are unequal, their languages are dissimilar. Can those who are dissimilar in language and unequal be placed on the pedestal of quality and asked to give the same exam?” “I think this matter is essentially in the executive domain. We now have a Supreme Court judgment. We will have to see how we deal with the issue,” he said.
After the SC decision, students in many states held protest demonstration against the order with BJP president, Amit Shah’s office ransacked in Ahmedabad. Despite the fact that its runs government in Maharashtra, the Modi led government is facing intense pressure from it which is leading campaign against the NEET.
Given the uniform code of conduct in NEET, language, syllabus and preparation issues have been raised by the states. However, J&K has a baggage of two more problems: political and constitutional, which forced it to knock SC in the first go utilising the services of top solicitors.
If sources are to be believed, the J&K Law Ministry had explained NEET extension to J&K and the concerns it had raised in eleven over pages to Health Ministry.
The Health Ministry was told that the J&K had a strong case because of Article 370 and 35-A besides the judicial precedents which exempt the state of J&K from NEET.
J&K Health Minister didn’t respond to phone calls. However, an official from his office at civil secretariat Srinagar told Kashmir Life, “Minister sahab, Commissioner Secretary Health and all others are in Kishtwar for DDB meet.”