New Delhi: The demand for postponing various examinations, including NEET and JEE, grew louder on Sunday with over 4,000 students observing a day-long hunger strike to press for the demand in view of rising COVID-19 cases.
The protest came on a day Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said the government must listen to the 'mann ki baat' of students and arrive at "an acceptable solution" and his party demanded that the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) and the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) be deferred.
According to the leftist All India Students Association (AISA), over 4,200 students observed the day-long hunger strike at their respective home demanding that CBSE compartment exams of Classes 10 and 12 be cancelled and entrance exams such as the UGC-NET, CLAT, NEET and JEE be postponed.
Using the hashtag, SATYAGRAHagainstExamInCovid, many students also took to Twitter to appeal to the government to heed to their demands.
Manoj S, a JEE aspirant from Karnataka, said, "We have to report to the JEE exam centre at 7 am. My centre is almost 150 kilometres away and there are no train or bus services available currently. "Many of my friends have said that their centres are 200 to 250 kilometres away. How are we supposed to travel? How will we write exams wearing masks for seven to eight hours?"
He urged the government to postpone the exams till normalcy is restored.
Anisha, hailing from Odisha, said with all the hotels and guest houses closed, where would they stay in case they have to travel for exams.
"I am from Balasore and my NEET exam centre is in Bhubaneswar. I will have to travel for five hours to take my exam. There are no hotels or guesthouses that are open. Where will we stay?" she said.
Siddh Dutt, who will be appearing for CBSE compartment exam, said, "I am an asthma patient. I am scared of what may happen to me if I catch COVID-19."
Madhurima, who said she has to take four different entrance exams, wants authorities to listen to her appeal -- "Please produce a vaccine so that we can take exams. "I am a JEE, IISER, DUET aspirant and also have to take another entrance exam," she said.
Md Danish Khan from Bhagalpur in Bihar said he has been "allotted an exam centre in Patna, which is a COVID-19 hotspot".
"I do not want to risk the lives of my relatives by staying at their place when I go to take the exam. I also stay in a joint family and if I contract the virus, it will create a chain of infection," he said.
A Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) aspirant from Kolkata, who requested anonymity, said she fears for her parents' safety during this time.
"My father is a diabetic and my mother just had an operation for a tumour. Even if they go to drop me to the exam centre using public transport, I will be putting them at risk. The government is not ready to listen to us.
"We will have to sit and write the exams wearing masks, gloves and headgear under hot weather conditions," she said.
Other students also shared similar woes and urged the government to postpone entrance exams and declare the academic year as a "zero year".
The AISA lent solidarity to the demands of the students.
A day ago, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia had appealed to the central government to cancel medical and engineering entrance exams JEE and NEET in view of the COVID-19 situation.
He also said an alternative admission methodology should be used this year and the exams should not be conducted.
On Friday, Education Ministry officials had said the Joint Entrance Examination (Main) and the National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (NEET-UG) will be conducted in September as scheduled.
Universities and schools across the country have been closed since March 16 when the Centre announced a countrywide classroom shutdown as part of measures to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. A nationwide lockdown was announced on March 24, which came into effect the next day and threw economic activities out of gear.
India's COVID-19 tally sprinted past the 30-lakh mark on Sunday, just 16 days after it crossed 20 lakh, while 22,80,566 people have recuperated in the country so far pushing the recovery rate to 74.90 per cent, according to the Union Health Ministry data.