The demand for the postponing of Joint Entrance Examination (Main) and the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET-UG) intensified on Thursday, with candidates calling for the exams to be delayed to avoid any mishappenings due to the pandemic. Protests erupted across social media platforms after the Supreme Court ruling, wherein the bench said that it found no "justification the prayer made for postponement of the examination in question relating to NEET UG 2020 as well as JEE (Main) April, 2020.” Meanwhile, on Wednesday, seven chief ministers of non-BJP ruled states backed the demand for postponement of the examinations and decided to jointly move the Supreme Court on the issue. As chorus for the postponement of the exams grows, here's all you need to know about the issue.
WHY DO STUDENTS WANT THE EXAMS POSTPONED?
After the Ministry of Education's NTA said that JEE (Main) and the NEET (UG) will be conducted in September, as scheduled, protests erupted on social media, with candidates seeking the postponement of the exams till the Covid-19 pandemic ebbs and the flood-related situation in many states across the country improves. Applicants have also expressed concerns about issues such as about lack of transportation and inevitable crowding if the exams are not postponed.
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 check the spread of Covid-19. Candidates are set to hold a protest on Thursday from 8am to “raise black flags from homes, tie black bands on arm or forehead, wear black masks, turn their profile pictures black!” With 3.23 million cases and 59,449 deaths, there is considerable fear among the students over contracting the virus. While a total of 9.53 lakh candidates have registered for JEE-Mains, 15.97 lakh students have registered for NEET (UG). The JEE (Main) is scheduled to be held between September 1 and 6, while the JEE (Advanced) on September 27.
WHAT IS THE GOVERNMENT SAYING?
NTA Director General Vineet Joshi, in an interview to state broadcaster Doordarshan detailed on the strength and coordination with local authorities to ensure safe conduct of the examinations. "These are national-level examinations and the authorities have been preparing for quite some time, which requires logistical thinking. I am not preparing for exams in about a day or two. We kept the pandemic and norms of social distancing in mind," he said. "We cannot lose more time in worrying about natural disasters like floods, nobody can foresee anything, we can work in saving the academic calendar, it is good for students," Joshi added.
Higher Education Secretary Amit Khare said there is no plan as of now to rethink the decision and that examinations will take place as per schedule. Meanwhile, amid growing clamour for postponement of the two exams, the NTA released admit cards on Wednesday. NTA officials said that over 14 lakh students have already downloaded admit cards for engineering and medical entrance exams.
WHAT MEASURES HAVE BEEN PUT IN PLACE?
The NTA has issued a litany of guidelines to ensure safety. The number of examination centres, for instance, has increased from 570 to 660 (in case of JEE Main) and 2,546 to 3,843 (in case of NEET (UG) 2020). JEE (Main) is a computer-based test and the number of shifts has been increased from the 8 to 12. The students will not be allowed to crowd and stand within the circles marked at the centre. Their entry and exit will also be staggered. Parents will not be permitted to stay after dropping the students at the exam centres. In in a situation where there is a sudden declaration of a containment zone, then students will use their admit cards for movement and functionaries at the exam centres can use their appointment letters.
The number of candidates per shift has been brought down from 1.32 lakh to 85,000. They will be adhering to alternate seating arrangements to ensure social distancing. For NEET (UG), a pen paper-based test, the number of candidates per room has been reduced from 24 to 12. These measures have been put in place to ensure social distancing. Besides this, the entry and exit of candidates will be staggered outside the examination hall.
WHICH PARTIES ARE OPPOSING THE DECISION?
Supporting the demand for postponement of NEET (UG) and JEE examinations, seven chief ministers of non-BJP ruled states on Wednesday decided to jointly move the Supreme Court on the issue. Congress chief Sonia Gandhi contended that students’ problems were being dealt “uncaringly” by the Centre. Among the chief ministers who attended the meeting were West Bengal's Mamata Banerjee (TMC), Maharashtra's Uddhav Thackeray, who is heading the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government, Punjab's Amarinder Singh (Congress), Jharkhand's Hemant Soren (JMM), Rajasthan's Ashok Gehlot (Congress), Chhattisgarh's Bhupesh Baghel (Congress)and Puducherry's V Narayanasamy (Congress).
Parties like the DMK and AAP also joined the growing chorus against the holding of the NEET and JEE exams at a time when coronavirus cases were increasing across the country. Earlier, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik also wrote to the Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank and urged the cancellation of the JEE (Main) and NEET (UG) in view of the Covid-19 pandemic and also direct the NTA to open exam centres in all 30 districts of the state.