The National Testing Agency is preparing to safely conduct the JEE and NEET next month even as students and political leaders demand postponement of the exams in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ministers from six opposition ruled states have moved the Supreme Court, seeking review of its order permitting Centre to conduct the two entrance exams this year. West Bengal, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Punjab and Maharashtra have filed the petition, according to ANI.
The blueprint being adopted by the NTA at 660 exam centres for JEE (Main) includes 10 lakh masks, 10 lakh pairs of gloves, 1,300 infrared thermometer guns, 6,600 litres of hand sanitiser and an equal amount of disinfectant liquid, The Indian Express reported.
In a press release on Tuesday, the agency had said that the number of exam centres have also been increased from 570 to 660 (in case of JEE Main) and 2,546 to 3,843 (in case of NEET 2020).
It added that in case of JEE (Main), the number of shifts has been increased from an earlier 8 to 12, and the number of candidates per shift has been reduced from earlier 1.32 lakh to 85,000 now.
NTA Director-General Vineet Joshi told The Indian Express that Covid-related precautions will cost the agency an additional Rs 150 per candidate. “Pre-Covid, the NTA would have spent Rs 400 per candidate for conducting the JEE (Main) alone,” he added.
NEET is to be held on 13 September and JEE Main is scheduled from 1-6 September.
In the 25 August press release, NTA had laid down its plan to safely conduct the exams. It said that to ensure social distancing, candidates will be seated in alternate seats in case of JEE (Main). For NEET, the number of candidates per room has been reduced from earlier 24 to 12.
The release also said that the entry and exit of candidates will be staggered ans adequate arrangements have been made outside the examination centres to ensure social distancing while candidates wait.
Amid growing chorus to postpone the exams, Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ on Thursday said that students want the exams to be conducted.
He said over 7 lakh candidates have downloaded JEE-Main admit cards while over 10 lakh aspirants have downloaded NEET admit cards. “This shows that students want the exams be held at any cost,” Pokhriyal said.
“We have received mails from students and parents who are in favour of holding exams as they have been preparing for the exams from at least two three years,” he added, according to PTI.
Demands to postpone
Congress workers in Chennai and Delhi held a protest on Friday to demand postponement of the exams. The party had announced on Thursday that its state units will hold a protest on Friday in front of central government officer at state and district headquarters.
The party also began an online campaign on Friday with party leader Rahul Gandhi tweeting, “Let’s make the government listen to the students”.
Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren on Thursday also urged Pokhriyal to consider postponing NEET and JEE examinations. In a letter to Pokhriyal, he said there is a risk of spread of infection.
“As part of its strategy to combat Covid-19, Government of Jharkhand has not yet commenced public transport and neither has it permitted opening of hotels, restaurants etc. Thus the examinees and their guardians are likely to face serious logistic issues,” he said.
On Thursday, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik also spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the phone and requested him to postpone the exams in view of the pandemic and the flood situation in the state, a senior CMO official said, according to PTI.
The BJP, meanwhile, accused the Congress of doing “politics” over the issue of exams, and said that the Modi government would not let the opposition party “spoil” future of the students.
“The Congress believes students must lose a year so it doesn″t lose an opportunity for politics. Over 85% #JEENEET candidates don″t agree and have downloaded admit cards. The Modi government won″t let Congress spoil students″ future to find relevance,” BJP general secretary Bhupender Yadav claimed.
(With PTI inputs)