Narendra Modi government%u2019s double standards became starkly visible on Wedneday, when it announced a major decision to cancel and postpone CBSE examinations, even as the gatherings at the on-going Haridwar Kumbh mela as also convergence of people in election-bound states continues unabated.

The announcement to cancel examinations followed a meeting of Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi . It was decided to postpone the class 12 exams and cancel the class 10 board exams. 

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The decision has led to much panic and chaos in the student community across the country. Reports coming in here from different places reflected mixed response from the stake-holders.  

Questions were being raised, not only on the mainstream but also the social media on different yardsticks being used  in dealing with examinations viz a viz political activities like elections or the uncontrolled socio-religious gatherings at the Haridwar Kumbh Mela.

The Kumbh Mela has been drawing more than 100,000 persons daily ever since it was officially opened on April 1. According to a senior spokesman of the Uttarakhand government, more than three million people had already taken their much desired dip in the Ganga so far. And there is no denying that COVID protocols have been violated with impunity.

Senior cops have been heard admitting, %u201Cthe crowds are so huge and spread for miles along the banks of the Ganga that is it impossible to ensure social distancing or to compel people to wear marks.%u201D

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About the sadhus converging at Haridwar for the mela, less said the better. Many of them consider themselves %u201Cimmune%u201D from the pandemic because they think they were in Haridwar for the holiest of holy rituals. And on days of the %u2018shahi snan%u2019 (royal dip) like Wednesday, April 14, when nearly a million people were estimated to have taken the dip at the Himalayan town of Haridwar, any kind of enforcement was impossible.

At one point, speculation was rife that the widespread criticism of the blatant violation of COVID norms would prompt the Uttarakhand government to prematurely close the Kumbh Mela on April 14 itself. However, the government apparently failed to convince the %u2018akharas%u2019 of sadhus to do so. And their argument is stated to be plain and simple %u2013 there was still another %u2018shahi snan%u2019 scheduled on April 27 and the %u2018akharas%u2019 were in no mood to give up their passion to take a dip on that last auspicious day.

Some sadhus were of the view that the government had already reduced the span of the Kumbh mela to just 30 days, as against the usual schedule of 2-3 months. Thus, April 30 had been mutually accepted as the closing date already.

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It is another matter that Uttarakhand recorded its highest COVID spike on Tuesday (April 13) , when 1,925 persons tested positive of which 1,000 cases were reported from Haridwar alone.

The Centre, which decided to cancel CBSE examinations at the drop of the hat, could not muster up the gumption to persuade the Uttarakhand government to call off the celebrations prematurely.

And sure enough, no political leader is interested in any argument against crowding of people during elections. Apart from assembly elections in the five states –  West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Pondicherry – where both political leaders and the public have thrown all COVID protocols to the winds, elections to local panchayats were starting in Uttar Pradesh with effect from April 15. But no political party has cared to even initiate a move for postponement of these elections. Who does not know how these grassroot level elections are bound to give rise to big gatherings in all villages where the incidence of COVID has not been that severe so far. How it plays out only time will tell.

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On the contrary, authorities find students %u201Ceasy and soft%u201D targets for its diktat on cancellation or postponement of CBSE examinations. Quite glaringly, the fate of many students has been left in a limbo. After all, government has decided to review the situation with respect to CBSE class 12 examinations on June 1. Also Class 10 students have been asked to either accept the so-called %u201Cobjective criterion%u201D that the CBSE will adopt to make the final report cards, or take a special examination on which decision would be taken later. 

Over 30 lakh students on an average take the CBSE class 10 and 12 board exams every year . 

Since the entire academic session (2020-2021) was conducted online as schools remained shut due to the pandemic, confusion prevails even more among both students and teachers. There is no mechanism to entertain suggestions from students. Only if they were politicians, they could have prescribed their own rules. 

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