Rahul Gandhi swiped at PM Modi, Mann ki Baat: “College students needed Pariksha Pe Charcha”

New Delhi: Soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi talked about making “toys for the world” on Sunday afternoon, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi took a sarcastic dig at the Prime Minister and called for India to emerge as a “toy center.”

Lakhs of college students protesting the conduct of JEE and NEET exams during the COVID crisis would have preferred a “pariksha pe charcha (discussion on exams)” over a “khilona pe charcha (discussion on toys)”, Mr. Gandhi said in his tweet.


“JEE-NEET aspirants wanted the PM do “pariksha pe charcha” but the PM did “khilone pe charcha,” Rahul Gandhi tweeted, adding the hashtag “#Mann_Ki_Nahi_Students_Ki_Baat“.

During his monthly radio address Mann ki Baat, the Prime Minister declared toys “very important to children’s growth” and that India should become a world leader in its manufacturing.

He also estimated the global toy market to be worth ₹ 7 lakh crore and said that it was “not right” for India to have a “very small” share of that market.

Mr. Gandhi’s latest dig – he has been relentless in his criticism of the government over myriad issues – comes amid pressure from students and opposition parties over the decision to hold the Joint Entrance Exams (JEE) and the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) in September.

On Friday the Congress MP said in a video posted on Twitter that the safety of NEET and JEE aspirants could not be compromised by the “failure of the government” to control the COVID-19 outbreak.

Describing the students as “the future”, Mr. Gandhi demanded to know why “further pain should be imposed” on them and urged the government against forcing the student community to sit for the exams.

During the pandemic, the conduct of JEE and NEET exams-for admission to IIT and medical courses, respectively-has been questioned by students and interested parties, who argue that health and safety must take precedence over academics at this time. India has seen a profoundly alarming rise in COVID cases in the past month and now has more than 35 lakh-confirmed infections, more than 63,000 of which are deaths.

NEET and JEE are set to be held despite these concerns; the Supreme Court dismissed a petition by earlier this month to postpone them, declaring “careers of students could not be put in jeopardy”.

The government has released a list of guidelines to ensure the safety of students and invigilators during the exams, but a group of opposition chief ministers has expressed concern that their governments would be blamed if, as is expected, COVID cases spike after mass public gatherings like the exams.