The National Testing Agency (NTA) will conduct the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) on Sunday despite several objections and after much hullabaloo amid the ongoing coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. The medical entrance examination will be held with strict precautions in place, the agency said. A total of 15.97 lakh students have registered for the exam, which has already been deferred twice.
In order to ensure that social distancing is maintained, the NTA has increased the number of centres from 2,546 to 3,843, while the number of candidates per room has been reduced from earlier 24 to 12. This has led to changes in centres for a few candidates, but the city of exam centre remains unchanged for all.
"For ensuring social distancing outside examination halls, a staggered entry and exit of candidates has been planned. Adequate arrangements have also been made outside examination centres to enable candidates stand with adequate social distancing while waiting," said a senior NTA official.
"Candidates have also been issued an advisory guiding them about the 'dos and don'ts' for proper social distancing. We have also written to states governments to extend support in local movement of the candidates so that they are able to reach their examination centres in time," the official added.
Taking further precautions, the NTA has made hand sanitisers available at the entrance of the examination centre and inside the exam hall at all times and replaced the process of checking the admit cards of candidates with barcode readers.
Candidates have been advised to come to the exam centres with masks and sanitisers. However, they will be provided three-ply masks once they enter the centre. The candidates will have to use the masks provided by the examination authority in order to avoid any form of unfair means at the time of examination.
Students in Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh will be provided the means of transportation by the government. In Kolkata and Mumbai, the Metro Railways and local trains will run special services for NEET candidates. A group of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) alumni and students have launched a portal to provide transport facilities to exam centres for the candidates in need.
A few states will also lift their lockdowns on Sundays to enable the candidates to travel for the exam.
The NTA NEET 2020 exam is being held after the Supreme Court dismissed a plea seeking postponement of the exam amid a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases. Refusing to postpone the exam, the court said a "precious year" of students cannot be wasted and life has to go on.
Several opposition leaders, including Congress's Rahul Gandhi, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, her Odisha counterpart Naveen Patnaik, DMK president MK Stalin and Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia had also demanded that the NEET and JEE be postponed.
The exam has also been contentious, with cases of student suicides on a rise. A Madurai-based MBBS aspirant Jyothy Sridurga ended her life on Saturday, becoming the second student from Tamil Nadu within a week to die by suicide out of fear and anxiety.
NEET had turned into a festering social issue in Tamil Nadu on the back of another suicide three years ago. A student with a solid performance in her 12th class, Anitha was unable to crack the exam and had moved the Supreme Court challenging it. Her death had sent shockwaves across the state and firmly established an anti-NEET sentiment in Tamil Nadu.
(With PTI inputs)