Amid coronavirus crisis, JEE exam begins with stringent precautions
After much furor and protests, the JEE examination, meant for admission in prestigious government-run engineering colleges, started today and will continue till September 6. The National Testing Agency (NTA), the nodal body conducting competitive exams in India, had earlier released guidelines considering the coronavirus pandemic. Before the crucial examination, HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal 'Nishank' urged states to support students and make necessary arrangements.
Context: NTA declared exam dates; some students sought a deferment
As India reeled under the coronavirus pandemic, the exams were postponed, but in July, NTA announced new dates. While the first six days of September were reserved for JEE, the agency announced NEET would happen on September 13. However, some students wanted the exams to be deferred until the health crisis comes under control. The Supreme Court was approached but it sided with NTA.
Six states wrote to SC, plea failed to achieve much
The row around the exams didn't end with SC's order as opposition parties joined the chorus as well. Leading the charge was Congress, whose President Sonia Gandhi convened a meeting with other parties to strategize the next steps. Subsequently, six ministers of states wrote to the top court, urging it to rethink its August 17 order. Clearly, the plea didn't do much.
Masks, gloves, hand hygiene, social distancing must: NTA
Last week, NTA released extensive guidelines to assure it was not compromising with the safety of students. Aspirants were told to wear masks and gloves at all times, bring their own water bottles and sanitizers to the exam centers. NTA said they will be thermally screened and those displaying higher temperatures will sit in isolation rooms. Social distancing also has to be rigorously followed.
Centers increased, number of students per shift brought down
Earlier, NTA said it has increased centers — for JEE the number of centers was increased from 570 to 660 and for NEET, 3,843 centers have been designated, as opposed to 2,546 earlier. Moreover, JEE will happen in 12 shifts and not eight, NTA said. Only 85,000, and not 1.32 lakh, students will appear for the examination in one shift, to allow staggered seating.
Aspirants, parents allowed on Mumbai trains: Piyush Goyal
Considering how challenging it would be for students to reach the examination centers when some coronavirus-induced restrictions are in place, the Railways declared that aspirants and their parents may travel on Mumbai suburban railways. Students can enter Railway stations by furnishing their admit cards. Railway Minister Piyush Goyal urged the general public to not board these trains while asking officials to help students.
Additional booking centers opened for convenience of students
📣 Supporting students appearing for NEET JEE exams, Railways has permitted them, and their guardians to travel by special suburban services in Mumbai on exam days.— Piyush Goyal (@PiyushGoyal) August 31, 2020
General passengers are requested not to commute. pic.twitter.com/bmfTZOnvnY
Some states facilitating travel as few coronavirus-induced restrictions remain
With the Centre going ahead with the exam, the onus fell on states to help students. Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot ordered district magistrates to take necessary steps to save aspirants from getting infected. In Punjab, standard operating procedures (SOPs) are being followed at the nine centers. Meanwhile, the governments of Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh assured students that they will handle their transportation.
At examination centers, students being screened, given fresh masks
Images that appeared on social media showed students flocking the examination centers. They underwent thermal screening and were given fresh masks. A candidate from Chandigarh told ANI that many students were waiting for the exam. Separately, an aspirant from Bihar shed light on logistics-related woes, saying no autos or buses were available to reach the center at TCS Office in Pataliputra Colony, Patna.