Staggered Seating, Face Masks As Lakhs Take JEE Exam Today: 10 Points

JEE: Last month the Supreme Court said “careers of students cannot be put under jeopardy” and rejected a petition by 11 students from 11 different states to postpone the exams


New Delhi: Despite widespread opposition from students, activists and the governments of several non-BJP ruled states, JEE (Main) for admission to IITs will be held starting today. The exams – JEE is from September 1 to 6 and NEET for medical courses on September 13 – were cleared by the Supreme Court last month, after it rejected a petition from 11 students to defer them – and will be conducted with strict restrictions on social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic. The exams – a crucial event in the academic calendar of lakhs of IIT and medical aspirants – have already been postponed twice. On Friday a last-gasp challenge was mounted by six opposition-ruled states, who asked the top court for a review of its order.

Here are the top 10 facts in this big story:

  1. Last week the National Testing Agency (NTA), which is in charge of conducting competitive entrance tests across the country, released an extensive list of guidelines and rules for students taking the exam. These include mandatory use of face masks and gloves, as well as carrying individual supplies of hand sanitiser and a water bottle. Candidates will be required to wash their hands with soap and water before entering the exam centre.
  2. The NTA said entrance to the exam centre (and reporting times) will be staggered and that students will have to clear thermal scans. There will be “isolation rooms” for candidates whose body temperature is above a prescribed limit. The NTA has also sought a self-declaration that says candidates do not have any symptoms or suffer from Covid or have not been in touch with a Covid-positive person.
  3. The NTA also said it has increased the number of exam centres to enable social distancing, and had allowed a significant percentage of students their first choice of cities in which to take the exam, in order to minimise inconvenience caused by travel during the pandemic.
  4. As of 6 PM Monday over 12.75 lakh students had downloaded admit cards for NEET (National Eligibility cum Entrance Exam). A further 7.78 lakh students had downloaded the JEE (Joint Entrance Exam) admit cards. According to the NTA the total number of students registered for NEET is nearly 16 lakh. Around 8.58 lakh have registered for JEE.
  5. Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, among other governments, have assured students of transportation. According to news agency PTI, a group of IIT alumni and students have launched a portal to provide transport facilities for candidates in need.
  6. Key opposition leaders, including Congress MP Rahul Gandhi, Maharashtra cabinet minister Aaditya Thackeray and DMK chief MK Stalin had asked the government to reconsider holding the exams during a pandemic. Mr Gandhi said the safety of students could not be compromised by the “failure of the government” to control the crisis.
  7. Last week the chief ministers of six opposition-ruled states – Bengal, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Punjab and Maharashtra – approached the Supreme Court asking for a review of its August 17 order allowing the exams.
  8. Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said states were being “bulldozed” in the name of cooperative federalism. “Let us go to the Supreme Court. Let us talk about this matter. This is a mental agony for students. I have not seen so many atrocities in a democracy. The situation is very serious. We have to speak up for the children,” she declared.
  9. Hours later a tussle broke out between the centre and some states after the NTA sent letters asking for arrangements to be made to ensure students’ safety. Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren said the exams had to be held but the centre needed to give more time “otherwise centre will blame states… if something goes wrong”.
  10. Last month the Supreme Court said “careers of students cannot be put under jeopardy” and rejected a petition by 11 students from 11 different states to postpone the exam. “Life cannot be stopped. We have to move ahead with safeguards and all… Are students ready to waste one whole year? Covid may continue for a year more,” Justice Arun Mishra said.
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