Wednesday 28 October 2020

NEET tomorrow: Over 15 lakh candidates to take test amid COVID precautions

The authority has already deferred the crucial NEET, which is a pen-and-paper based test, unlike engineering entrance exam JEE, twice due to COVID-19-related restrictions

Over 15 lakh candidates are expected to appear in medical entrance National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) tomorrow (Sunday, 13 September). The test will be conducted amid strict precautions in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Testing Agency (NTA) officials said.

In order to maintain social distancing, the NTA has increased the number of exam centres from originally-planned 2,546 to 3,843, while the number of candidates per room has been reduced from earlier 24 to 12.

The authority has already deferred the crucial NEET, which is a pen-and-paper based test, unlike engineering entrance exam JEE, twice in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The exam was to take place on 3 May but was pushed to 26 July and then to 13 September.

A total of 15.97 lakh candidates have registered for the exam.

“For ensuring social distancing outside examination halls, a staggered entry and exit of candidates has been planned. Adequate arrangements have also been made outside examination centres to enable candidates stand with adequate social distancing while waiting,” a senior NTA official said.

“Candidates have also been issued an advisory guiding them about the ‘dos and don’ts’ for proper social distancing. We have also written to states governments to extend support in local movement of the candidates so that they are able to reach their examination centres in time,” the official added.

The testing agency has changed the centres for some candidates this week in compliance with social distancing norms and COVID restrictions. However, the city of the exam centre hasn’t been changed for any candidate.

Making hand sanitisers available at the entrance of the examination centre and inside the exam hall at all times, replacing the process of checking the admit cards of candidates with barcode readers, increasing the number of examination centres, alternate seating plans, fewer candidates per room and staggered entry and exit are among the steps the NTA has taken.

“While all the candidates will be asked to come to the exam centres with masks and sanitisers, once they enter the centre, they will have to use the masks provided by the examination authority.

“Each candidate will be offered a three-ply mask at the time of entry and are expected to wear the same during the examination in order to avoid any form of unfair means at the time of examination,” the official added.

While the governments of Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh have assured students that they will provide them transportation, a group of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) alumni and students have launched a portal to provide transport facilities to exam centres for the candidates in need.

The Metro Railway in Kolkata is planning to run special services for NEET candidates on 13 September to help them reach their examination centres.

There has been a growing chorus for postponing the exams amid the rising number of COVID-19 cases.

The Supreme Court had earlier dismissed a plea seeking postponement of the exam amid a spurt in the number of COVID-19 cases, saying a “precious year” of students cannot be wasted and life has to go on.

Several opposition leaders, including Congress’ Rahul Gandhi, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, her Odisha counterpart Naveen Patnaik, DMK president M K Stalin and Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia had also demanded that this, as well as JEE, be postponed.

When the JEE exams were just a few days away, the issue had escalated into a full-blown political battle with ministers from Rajasthan and Punjab (Indian National Congress), West Bengal (Trinamool Congress), Jharkhand (Jharkhand Mukti Morcha), Maharashtra (Nationalist Congress Party and Shiv Sena) seeking postponement of the exams “in a manner that achieved the twin objectives of ensuring that the academic year of the students is not wasted and their health and safety is not compromised”.

They have filed a petition in the apex court to review its order of conducting JEE and NEET UG 2020 during the novel coronavirus crises. However, the plea was dismissed by the Supreme Court.

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