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COVID-19: Now, state & centre at odds over academic calendar in Bengal

After disagreements over policies about containing the coronavirus pandemic, the state government and the Centre are at odds over the academic calendar. The state government has announced that all students till Class 8 and those in Class 11 will be automatically promoted, and postponed two Higher Secondary examination papers to June. Now, University Grants Commission Secretary Rajnish Jain wrote to the state Department of Higher Education on April 17, saying the UGC has set up an expert panel to take decisions about the academic calendar and examinations.

"It is observed that in the present situation our stakeholders have expressed their concern about the examinations and the possible delay in the next academic calendar," he wrote. "Taking note of the genuine concerns of the students, teachers, parents, and institutions, UGC has already constituted an expert committee to deliberate on the issues related to examination and academic calender and its recommendations. The committee is expected to submit its report shortly."

Jain said the UGC, after consulting the Ministry of Human Resource Development, would issue "appropriate guidelines based on which the universities/colleges may chalk out their plan of action to address the above issue and other related exigencies". The letter has drawn strong criticism from the state administration, which has claimed that these moves are not in the interest of India's federal structure.

"This is not shocking to us," said state Education Minister Partha Chatterjee. "This is not new. This central government never obeyed the federal structure of the states." State Secretary of Higher Education Manish Jain replied to the UGC official on April 18, pointing out that education is in the concurrent list of Constitution. "I suggest that the report of the expert committee be sent to the all state governments for suitable feedback within stipulated time period, before any decision is taken on the report."

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