INDIA, New Delhi. While National Testing Agency (NTA) has decided to conduct Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) Main and National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) examinations in September, the current pandemic is creating panic among the students and parents. They are in a dilemma about whether to send students for examinations and face the risks of COVID-19 or not appear and lose one year.
The Supreme Court dismissed a 16 August plea seeking the postponement of JEE Main 2020 and NEET undergraduate examinations. More than 2.6 million students are planning to appear for both examinations, putting one another at great risk if any of the social distancing norms fail.
Common testing locations risk spreading virus
Increasing cases of COVID-19 are making parents reluctant to allow their children to sit for the exam. JEE Main exam is online and hence the use of computers is necessary.
With two batches and so many students, sanitization of keyboards is not feasible. Hundreds of people will flock around one centre. They will be in a greater risk of contracting and/or spreading coronavirus.
One parent talking to Transcontinental Times said, “Imagine the spreading of COVID-19 if these exams are held. It would be absolute chaos around India.” The undergraduate NEET, a pen and paper-based test, increases chances of viral spread even more so.
Combined with the COVID-19 risks, the monsoon is wreaking havoc in South India. Conducting these examinations are now becoming more difficult. Candidates who are coming from remote villages will find it difficult to reach centres in time because of the scarcity of public transportation.
Bihar has extended lockdown to 6 September and JEE Main exam is scheduled for 1 September to 5 September. Bihar students will be in no position to appear for the examination. A similar situation is also taking shape in most states across India.
Broad support for postponement
Shashi Tharoor, Congress MP, supported the students demand of postponing both exams until ‘it is safe and practicable.’ A Twitter user asked for his support, the MP replied, “I do support the request to postpone these examinations until it is safe & practicable. I do hope @DrJitendraSingh is listening! #SurakshaBeforePariskha (sic).”
It is in the hands of the central government to decide, but with no clear dictate, students are highly stressed.
A 19-year woman in Tami Nadu committed suicide last Tuesday due to stress of approaching NEET exam. Meanwhile, DMK MLA (legislative member) N Karthik visited the victim’s house. He said that the party chief MK Stalin expressed deep shock over the incident. The MLA urged the centre to immediately cancel the NEET examination.
On Friday, MP Subramanyam Swamy, former economics professor at Harvard University, recommended that the entrance test should be taken after Deepavali festival in November.