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NEW DELHI: Amid the rising clamour from students for postponing the JEE and NEET exams in view of the coronavirus pandemic, the opposition parties have also joined the chorus calling the move “anti-students” while demanding that the exams should be either cancelled or delayed.
While the NEET is planned on September 13, engineering entrance exam JEE Main is scheduled from September 1-6. Around 9.53 lakh candidates have registered for JEE-Mains and 15.97 lakh students have registered for NEET.
But why are students demanding that exams be postponed?
* At a time when coronavirus cases are increasing daily and classes are taking place online, the students are saying that the government cannot expect them to answer exams by going to the exam centre. This could lead to the number of Covid cases multiplying rapidly.
* Another reason is that hundreds of students across the country are suffering from Covid or are quarantined at their homes and hence will be unable to answer their exams, which would lead to the loss of an academic year for them.
* For students who have been preparing for these two major entrance exams for the past two years, the uncertainty around the dates and not being able to attend coaching during the lockdown has also derailed their preparation and plans.
* The non-resident Indian students who may have want to answer NEET and JEE could also miss out due to the lack of international flights.
* Mandar Patil from Mumbai, who is also aspiring to sit for the exam, said, “I don’t have any expectations now. I feel bad about how the lockdown spoiled my hard work.” Patil who lives in a joint family in a small home said, “I don’t have my own room and there’s always someone sitting in front of me when I am studying. My family members tell me to not study so hard and give me chores to do.”
* 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.
Opposition parties support students
* Several opposition leaders in India including Congress’ Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, her Odisha counterpart Naveen Patnaik, DMK president MK Stalin and Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia have demanded the exams be postponed.
* Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday urged the Central government to listen to their grievances and find an amicable solution. “NEET-JEE aspirants are worried about their health and future. They have genuine concerns of: fear of Covid19 infection, transport and lodging during pandemic and flood-mayhem in Assam and Bihar,” he said on Twitter.
* Mamata Banerjee has also urged other leaders to move the Supreme Court for postponing the NEET and JEE exams as students are not prepared.
Covid-19 measures for students
* The Joint Entrance Examination (Main) and the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET-UG) will be conducted in September as scheduled, officials said, amid a growing chorus for postponing the crucial tests in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.
* The National Testing Agency (NTA) said it has planned several steps to conduct the papers safely which include increasing the number of examination centers, alternate seating plan, fewer candidates per room and staggered entry and exit.
* The number of examination centers have also been increased from 570 to 660 (for JEE Main) and 2,546 to 3843 (for NEET). While JEE-Mains is a computer-based test, NEET is a pen-paper test, the NTA said.
* Additionally, in case of JEE-Mains, the number of shifts has been increased from the earlier 8 to 12, and the number of candidates per shift has been reduced from earlier 1.32 lakh to 85,000 now, it said.
* In order to ensure proper social distancing inside the examination halls, the candidates will be seated in alternate seats in case of JEE-Mains. In case of NEET, the number of candidates per room has been reduced from 24 to 12, it said.
* For ensuring social distancing outside the examination hall, the entry and exit of candidates has been staggered, it added.
Supreme Court declines students’ plea
* The Supreme Court last week dismissed a plea seeking postponement of JEE (Main) April 2020 and NEET-Undergraduate examinations, saying precious year of students “cannot be wasted” and life has to go on.
* A three-judge bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra said career of students “cannot be put under jeopardy for long”.
* The Supreme Court also declined a plea for directions to the Centre and the National Testing Agency (NTA) for setting up NEET exam centres abroad for the benefit of students in foreign countries in the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic.
* The SC asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to discuss with ministries concerned whether students who wish to visit India to sit in the NEET exam could be accommodated on the Vande Bharat Mission flights.
* The court also asked Mehta to explore the possibility that aspirants based out of the Middle East countries were permitted to board such flights.
Greta Thunberg voices support to students
* Swedish teen climate change campaigner Greta Thunberg also threw her weight behind postponing the NEET and the JEE exams in India in view of the coronavirus, saying it is “deeply unfair” that students are asked to appear in the crucial tests during the pandemic.
* Voicing her support to the calls for the deferment of the key national examinations, Thunberg took to Twitter, saying it is deeply unfair for the students.
* “It’s deeply unfair that students of India are asked to sit national exams during the Covid-19 pandemic and while millions have also been impacted by the extreme floods. I stand with their call to #PostponeJEE_NEETinCOVID,” she said in a tweet.
Educational institutes closed
* Universities, schools and coaching centres 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.

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