JEE & NEET Exams: To Appear or Not to Appear

The recent furore over the Centre’s approval to go ahead with the JEE Mains and NEET examination was in many ways, not unprecedented. After all, the gloom and desperation have only been exacerbated in India by an unchecked spread of the dreaded virus as days have progressed. It naturally brought with it a treasure trove of uncertainty and consequently pushed back several important deadlines. The Joint Entrance Examination and the NEET, both highly sought after examinations in India to get into the prestigious IITs and AIIMS colleges for undergraduate studies, were not spared the hassle.

After a long and arduous wait, the Supreme Court’s ruling on the subject recently nailed any hopes of further postponement of the exam. The Supreme Court noted that an indefinite postponement of an exam of such importance would “jeopardise” the careers of the students involved. A similar perspective was also shared by some of the directors of the Indian Institutes of Technology, who claimed that any further delay in conducting the entrances would result in a washed-out year. Generally, academic classes start in colleges from the month of August, with the entrances being held much earlier in the month of April and May. However, with the prevalence of extraordinary circumstances this year, all events have been delayed.

Several states have contended to file a review petition before the Supreme Court in a bid to persuade the court to grant the students relief amidst these times of adversity. However, with the matter still not listed for hearing before a bench, it is unlikely that any relief would come at the last hour. The JEE Main examinations are supposed to commence from the first of September and shall continue until September 6. On the other hand, the NEET examination has been scheduled on the 13th of September. Hence, most states have to now fill the gaps in logistics with a near-emergency deployment of resources to ensure the smooth conduct of the examinations, for which an estimated twenty million aspiring students appear each year.

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has however made elaborate arrangements for ensuring minimum hassle to those appearing for the examinations. The state government has also launched a portal wherein students who require any form of conveyance may register to avail of free transport services doled by the government exclusively for this purpose. Furthermore, the state has also lifted the usual lockdown restrictions prevalent on the weekends to facilitate travelling students and guardians to reach their destination cities without any difficulty. Any form of identification document (for example, admit card) would be accepted as a valid form of movement pass, Chief Secretary Asit Tripathy has claimed.

The decision has, despite being taken in the interest of the majority, left behind many students in a lurch. Despite promises of compliance with operating procedures and safety standards, there is no practical guarantee that such regulations would be at play when thousands shall congregate at designated centres. These are factors that cannot be determined earlier and hence only add to the mental burden on the candidates, who not only have to be optimised for a rock-solid examination performance but also be wary of COVID protocols all the while. As if the pandemic was not enough, tragic flooding across several areas in Bihar, Assam and even Odisha has led to entire villages and towns becoming marooned from the mainland. To expect students from these parts to appear for the examinations, battling all odds, is simply farfetched.

We can only keep our fingers crossed for minimum collateral losses now that the dates have been finalised. While it is absolutely essential to keep the academic rigour and calendar on track, it must be health that is prioritised first before anything else. Regardless, several states have already taken precautionary measures to comply with set guidelines to the maximum possible extent.

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