Cancellation of UGC-NET: Protesting students demand in-depth investigation

Cancellation of UGC-NET: Protesting students demand in-depth investigation

Students called for the resignation of Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and dismantling of the National Testing Agency; several leaders detained

Mohammed Alamullah | Clarion India

NEW DELHI- The streets of Delhi on Thursday became the epicenter of a massive student protest as thousands demonstrated against the cancellation of the UGC-NET exam and alleged irregularities in the NEET-UG exam.

Led by the Congress-affiliated National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) and other student organizations, the protests have resulted in large-scale detentions and accusations of brutal police repression.

The Education Ministry’s abrupt decision to cancel the UGC-NET exam, conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA), came after questions were raised regarding the integrity of the test. The move affected over nine lakh candidates who had taken the exam on Tuesday. The protesters not only demanded the reinstatement of the UGC-NET, but also an investigation into allegations of corruption within the NTA.

NSUI members, led by their national president Varun Choudhary, staged a noisy protest outside the residence of Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan. Choudhary’s symbolic act of throwing a bag of fake currency into the air was aimed at highlighting alleged corruption within the NTA. While standing on top of a car, Choudhary said, “I came here with money for Dharmendra Pradhan. Let him restore my future in exchange for money. Shortly after, Choudhary and several other protesters were arrested.

Another protester exclaimed: “We want justice. The Minister of Education can do anything for money. There is a huge scam happening. This sentiment was echoed by several students.

Simultaneously, the All India Students’ Association (AISA) protested in front of Shastri Bhawan. Footage from the scene showed intense clashes between police and protesters, with students being forcibly thrown into police vans. The protesters held placards that read: “First NEET, then NET!” NTA hall of shame is full,” calling for a thorough investigation into corruption allegations.

The Democratic Students Federation (DSF), an independent left-wing student organization, also joined the fray, demanding the scrapping of the NTA. In a statement, the DSF described the police action as “brutal” and called for the immediate release of the detained students.

More than a hundred students were arrested, including prominent leaders such as Ranvijay, president of AISA JNU, and Abhigyan, president of AISA Delhi. JNUSU president Dhananjay, along with other protesters, blocked the road in front of the ministry, demanding the release of all detainees.

“The NTA has failed its students time and time again. We demand the complete removal of the NTA. Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan must also take responsibility and resign. UGC president Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar must be removed for complicity in all acts of corruption and paper leaks,” Dhananjay said.

SFI Delhi, leading another protest, highlighted growing concerns over the NTA’s ability to conduct fair and secure exams. “They make fun of the entire education system. The NTA has been unable to administer these exams as evidenced by the paper leak in NEET, discrepancies in the CUET exam and the ongoing compromise in the integrity of the UGC-NET 2024 exam,” Avijit Ghosh said , vice-president of JNUSU.

Sooraj Elamon, Joint Secretary, SFI Delhi, added, “Many of us struggled to prepare for the NET exam and now due to the incompetence of a few, countless students have to suffer. A transparent and independent investigation into the alleged irregularities surrounding the UGC-NET exam is demanded. We also demand to relieve the NTA of the responsibility of conducting examinations and put in place a more accountable and robust system of conducting examinations under the direct responsibility of the UGC.

A press release from the protesting students highlighted the issues involved: “Hundreds of students led by the Students’ Federation of India (SFI Delhi) protested in front of the Ministry of Education (MoE) against the discrepancies noted in the UGC-NET exam and its subsequent cancellation. Ordinary students who joined the protest were attacked by the Delhi Police. The students were heckled and brutalized. SFI activists were violently arrested and are now being taken to different police stations.”

The cancellation of the NET exam has far-reaching implications, especially for students aspiring for PhD admission this year. The protesting students have called on universities to conduct separate examinations without relying on NET as a criterion for allotment of PhD positions.

“We are here united in demanding a fair and transparent review system. The futures of countless students are at stake, and the Ministry of Education must take immediate action to address these critical issues,” said an SFI student representative.

The protests have garnered widespread support from the student community, with many urging the Ministry of Education to engage in democratic dialogue with student unions and other stakeholders to resolve the crisis.

As the protests continue, pressure has mounted on the Union government and the education ministry to take decisive action. Students’ demands for transparency, accountability and dismantling the NTA reflect a broader call for reforms to the examination system to ensure fairness and integrity. The coming days will be crucial in determining the course of action the government will take in response to these growing demands.