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Devbrat Patnaik

Even as the chorus of dissent continues to grow louder against the decision for conduct of NEET-JEE 2020 examinations next month in the wake of COVID pandemic, the National Testing Agency (NTA) in its latest statement has made it clear that the examinations will be held on the dates announced earlier.

The National Testing Agency in a press release issued on August 25 remained firm on the decision regarding conduct of exams. NTA reiterated that JEE (Main) & NEET (UG) exams will be held on the dates announced earlier, which are 1st to 6th September and 13th September, respectively.

Every single student who has applied for NEET- JEE and similar exams was hopeful that situation would relatively turn normal soon but the COVID infection count kept on rising at an alarming rate with each passing day.

National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), whose marks are used for admission into the technical and medical courses in various colleges across the country, was in fact scheduled for May 3, 2020.

However, an unexpected countrywide lockdown then as well as pending board exams for a few subjects, forced Education Ministry’s National Testing Agency (NTA) to postpone and re-schedule it for the last week of May. Reportedly, the decision was taken to avoid any inconvenience to students and guardians who had to travel to different centres across the country for the exam.

SITUATION NEVER IMPROVED..

A month later during a webinar with students, Union Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank announced that the Joint Entrance Examination Main (JEE-Main) would be held from July 18 to July 23 and NEET on July 26. JEE Advanced was scheduled to be held in August.

However, based on recommendations of a panel set up to review the situation for conducting the exams, the dates of JEE Main 2020, NEET 2020 exam were again revised. Even though delaying the exams has had a major impact on the academic calendar, it was inevitable since many test centres were located in containment zones and safety of the students was top priority.

Taking into account the prevailing situation, Pokhriyal again announced JEE examination will be held between September 1 and 6, JEE advanced exam on September 27 and NEET on September 13. The National Testing Agency also prepared a testing App through which students can complete their preparations.

But opposing this, a plea was moved in the Supreme Court to quash and set aside public notices issued by the NTA. Citing the worsening COVID crisis, the petition filed by advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava on behalf of 11 students from 11 states, urged the apex court to give directions to the Centre to wait for some more time and conduct JEE and NEET exams only after normalcy is restored in the country. Raising similar concerns, candidates across the country have been demanding the postponement of the exams.

And eventually, senior leaders lent the voices of dissent. BJP MP Subramanian Swamy sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention to direct the Education Ministry to postpone NEET and JEE till Diwali, and warned of suicides by youths otherwise. Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee appealed the Centre to assess the risk and postpone these examinations until the situation is conducive again. She stressed that it is the duty of government to ensure a safe environment for all students. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also urged the govt to take into account "MANN KI BAAT" of JEE and NEET students who have been demanding postponement of the entrance examinations.

Notwithstanding the chorus for postponement, the National Testing Agency categorically stated that the exams are on course and will be held on the dates as scheduled.

The NTA highlighted the Supreme Court order which states there is absolutely no justification in the prayers made for the postponement of the examinations in questions relating to NEET UG-2020 as well as JEE (Main), 2020. The court said ultimately life has to go on despite the pandemic situation and that postponement could put the career of the students in jeopardy, thereby wasting a full academic year.

SERIOUS REPERCUSSIONS? THAT'S WHAT THE VOICES OF DISSENT SAY

1. More than 50% of COVID cases are from rural areas which means transportation of the poor students in these areas would be a major issue.

2. Exam centres are not in every district, plus, many students have been allotted far off centres.

3. Few students will have to move out to other cities for the exam a day in advance which might increase their susceptibility of getting infected.

4. Some states still have lockdowns and containment zones in place. And with public transport put on halt, poor students will face problems in arranging private vehicles, and if someone accompanies them in their travel, it would further complicate the situation.

5. In these circumstances, there is also no guarantee that students will get healthy and hygienic food during their stay near centre allotted.

6. Concerns have also been raised by students from Bihar, Assam and States in North East Region rattled by flood situation and the COVID pandemic.

7. Further, many aspirants and their family members have contracted the virus and thus, it could have hampered their preparations both mentally and physically.

8. In addition, thousands of students from abroad have to come to India for the examination following a mandatory quarantine guideline.

SC Declines Exam Centres In Gulf Nations

Hearing a plea to hold NEET (UG) 2020 at exam centres in Gulf countries, the Supreme Court asked the Central government to allow students to come via ‘Vande Bharat Mission’ flights to appear for the exams. The top court said though there can be no relaxation in COVID quarantine norms, the concerned state authorities can be approached to seek relaxation.

NTA MAINTAINS- STUDENTS GIVEN CHANCE TO CHANGE CENTRES

It is to be noted that the JEE (Main) candidates were provided 5 opportunities to change their Exam Centres. A total of 6 lakh 61 thousand 911 candidates availed this opportunity and they were considered for Centres based upon their latest (revised) option. So far, lakhs of candidates have downloaded their admit cards. And of the total candidates, 99.07 per cent have been given the first choice of centres of their preference; only 142 candidates have requested for a change in the centre cities allotted to them, which is being looked into positively,” the NTA said in its statement.

SITUATION NO DIFFERENT IN ODISHA

This year, more than 50,000 students from Odisha are appearing in NEET and around 40000 in JEE (Main). However, NTA has opened examination centres for the said tests in only seven townships of the State.

Highlighting the drawbacks, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has written to Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhrhiyal seeking postponement of the exams. In view of the prevailing COVID pandemic situation in the country, it would be highly unsafe and perilous for the students to visit the test centres physically to appear in these tests. Besides, as frequent lockdown/shutdown are being enforced by the concerned district administrations due to sudden escalation of the COVID positive case locally, the local transportation also gets disrupted, the CM said.

Further, Odisha has got vast tribal pockets having geographically inaccessible areas, far away from the urban centres of the State. As such, the students of these areas may be deprived of appearing in these tests, as they will have to travel long distances to come to the examination centers.

Therefore, the CM has requested to postpone the ensuing JEE (Main) and NEET examination to a later date to ensure the safety and security of the students.

Besides, Naveen Patnaik has also requested Pokhriyal to direct NTA to open centres in all the 30 districts of the State so that students have to travel maximum 2-3 hours to reach the test centres and go back home the same day and thus ensure maximum participation of the students in these tests.

From noted actor-turned social worker Sonu Sood to Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, people from all quarters of life have expressed disapproval against the decision to conduct the national level examinations at a time when the whole country is battling Covid19 pandemic.

More than 16 lakh candidates have registered in NEET (UG)-2020 for admissions into MBBS/BDS courses and other undergraduate medical courses in recognised medical, dental and other colleges in India. The number of candidates for JEE-Main is over 9 lakh.

While #POSTPONEJEE_NEET trend has set social platforms abuzz, it remains to be seen how the concerned ministries and examination boards would evaluate the scenario and necessitate any changes in schedule, if there is a possibility.

There can be only a temporary solution to this, or else all students would lose one year and compete with an added bunch next year for the same number of seats, ultimately ruining a year of those who genuinely want to appear in the exams.

https://youtu.be/483hTokXzIQ

Also Read: Swedish Teen Activist Greta Thunberg Backs Demand To Defer JEE, NEET

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