(Eds: Updating with minister's statement, details of protest) Mumbai, Mar 11 (PTI) The Maharashtra Public Service Commission (MPSC) on Thursday again postponed its preliminary examination for government jobs -- scheduled for Sunday -- citing the coronavirus situation, but the concerned minister claimed he was never consulted.
The decision, announced by the Relief and Rehabilitation Department in a circular, sparked protests by students and also came in for flak from leaders of the ruling coalition members Congress and NCP as well as opposition BJP.
Congress leader and Rehabilitation Minister Vijay Wadettiwar claimed he was kept in the dark by officials.
'The decision has been taken at the secretary level without even discussing the issue with me. I know nothing about it....there will be inquiry into this matter,' he tweeted.
The examination was to take place in April last year but was repeatedly delayed due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Senior Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan questioned the wisdom of the decision.
Speaking to reporters in Pune, he said, 'If the government can permit weddings, hold budget session and conduct exams for the health department, then it is wrong to cancel the MPSC examination.' It was injustice to candidates, the former chief minister said, adding, 'How much longer they should prepare for MPSC? If the government can allow other events, it should not apply a different yardstick for MPSC.' BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis demanded that the decision be reversed.
'The exams have been pushed forward already and it would result in the loss of opportunity for many students who invest their best years in preparation,' he tweeted.
Fadnavis also said that Wadettiwar's claim was unacceptable, and he should step down.
'I can not believe that such a crucial decision has been taken without informing the minister,' he said.
Rohit Pawar, NCP MLA and grandson of party chief Sharad Pawar, tweeted that the examination can be conducted in a fair and safe manner.
News of postponement sparked protest by hundreds of MPSC aspirants in Pune who blocked Shastri Road in the city.
Pune has emerged as a big hub of coaching classes for MPSC and UPSC examinations in the last few years.
Mahesh Bade, one of the aspirants, demanded roll-back of the decision. 'Is the government waiting for students to commit suicide?' he asked.
Another aspirant said the exam was first scheduled to take place in April 2020, then it was postponed till October, then to March and now it has been again deferred.
'If they wanted to postpone, they should have done it 15 days ago. Now students have gone back to their respective centres across the state and they learn that exam would not take place,' he said.
If elections to gram panchayats and other local bodies can take place amid the pandemic, why not MPSC exam, he asked.
BJP MLC Gopinath Padalkar also joined in the protest as the police tried to disperse the students. PTI ND SPK GK KRK KRK