Ahead of the NEET exam, the Centre and the National Testing Agency (NTA) had a set of protocols to ensure precautions in the wake of Covid-19, but reports and several accounts on Twitter suggest that no social distancing was followed on Sunday outside some of the exam centres.
Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ tweeted that NTA informed him around 85-90% students appeared for the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test. As many as 15.97 lakh candidates had registered for NEET, which was earlier postponed twice in view of the pandemic.
NTA’s set of guidelines included staggered entry and exit of candidates to ensure social distancing outside the examination hall. The agency had also said in its release last month that adequate arrangements had been made outside the centres to enable candidates to stand with adequate social distancing while waiting.
However, despite being given staggered entry timings, most candidates arrived at their centres by 11.30 am for the exam which began at 2 pm, The Indian Express pointed out.
The Quint also spoke to students at an exam hall in in Delhi’s Mayur Vihar. The report said that while students expressed satisfaction with social distancing measures and other SOPs being followed inside the centre, crowds of parents could be seen outside the centre.
The exam was postponed twice due to the pandemic and the government decided to go ahead with it, with Pokhriyal saying that the students wanted the exams to be held. Higher Education Secretary Amit Khare had said students risk losing an entire academic year if the examinations were postponed again.
Several opposition leaders had demanded the postponement of NEET and JEE and filed a review petition in the top court. The Supreme Court dismissed the review petition filed by ministers of six opposition-ruled states on 4 September.
The NTA had increased the number of centres from 2,546 in 2019 to 3,862 this year to ensure crowd management and staggered entry and exit protocols. The number of candidates per room was also reduced from earlier 24 to 12.
Several people have now complained about the lack of social distancing outside the exam centres. The Times of India quoted the father of a candidate, whose exam centre was in Hyderabad, as saying that it was crowded outside the centre as everyone was waiting on the road. “Had the officials arranged for waiting area, everyone would have waited at designated spots and our children could have access to washrooms before the start of the examination,” he was quoted as saying.
Several people took to Twitter to complain about the lack of social distancing outside the centres.
Several photos from the exam centres also showed that social distancing norms were not being followed outside the exam centres: