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JEE-Main begins amid stringent COVID-19 precautions

Students taking sanitisers before appearing for the JEE entrance exam at a centre in Vivek Vihar, New Delhi on Tuesday.   | Photo Credit: R.V. Moorthy

NEW DELHI

Students applying for architecture and planning courses were the first to step out for the Joint Entrance Examination-Main, as the six-day entrance test began on Tuesday. After protests and court cases failed to spur a further postponement in the examination that was originally scheduled for April, lakhs of candidates donned masks and gloves, and armed themselves with sanitiser to brave theCOVID-19 pandemic and attempt the examination.

Also read: Students want NEET, JEE; most have downloaded admit cards, says Education Minister

Overall, 8.58 lakh students have registered to write the computer-based test, which is being conducted from September 1-6, with two shifts per day at 660 centres across the country. So far, 7.7 lakh students have downloaded admit cards, according to data from the National Testing Agency (NTA), the autonomous body under the Union Education Ministry, which is responsible for conducting the examination.

The first day of the examination was devoted to B.Arch and B.Planning. Reports from around the country and on social media suggest that many students who have also applied for the B.E. and B.Tech papers later in the week, or the medical entrance examination NEET later in the month, decided not to risk their health by attempting the architecture papers today. The NTA was not able to provide details on the number of students who actually wrote the examination on Tuesday, but reports from States and on social media indicated about 60%-70% attendance at some centres.

“My daughter is also absent today due to lack of transportation and she is also NEET aspirant. If she gets infected now, then how can she give NEET examination on 13 September? And tomorrow is her JEE main B.Tech exam also,” said Twitter user N. Parveen.

JEE-Main is used for admission to undergraduate courses in engineering and architecture at the National Institutes of Technology and a number of Central and State engineering colleges. It is also the first step to entry into the elite Indian Institutes of Technology, with the top-ranked students from JEE Main allowed to write JEE Advanced, which will be conducted by IIT Delhi on September 27.

On social media, students shared pictures showing varying levels of compliance with the NTA’s safety norms at different centres, with some saying distancing guidelines to protect them from infection were not followed, especially as students exited the exam hall. In many centres, there were no arrangements made for parents and guardians, leading to crowding outside venues, they said.

The NTA said arrangements had been made to disinfect seating areas between shifts of students, provide fresh masks and sanitiser, check body temperatures with thermal guns, and isolate students with fever in separate rooms. “JEE exam was conducted smoothly all over the country,” said Higher Education Secretary Amit Khare.

On Tuesday morning, the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court refused to defer the examination, but said that students from the flood-hit parts of Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region, who could not reach the examination centre or reached late could apply to the NTA for a re-examination. The NTA was asked to consult with District Collectors and decide on a case-by-case basis within 15 days.

State government authorities were asked to facilitate transport facilities for candidates. In Mumbai, JEE candidates will be allowed to travel using special suburban railway services. Other States announced special bus services. IIT alumni created a portal www.eduride.in to connect needy students and those in remote areas to volunteers willing to give them a ride, or donate to support cab services.

A large section of students and parents had wanted the examinations to be postponed due to the health risks for candidates and their families as well as the difficulties of travel and lodging, given that transport and hospitality facilities remain disrupted in many areas due to the pandemic.

Last month, the Supreme Court dismissed a petition from students to defer the examination. Last week, Cabinet Ministers from six Opposition-ruled States — Punjab, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and West Bengal — filed a review petition in the apex court seeking postponement of both JEE and NEET, the medical entrance examination scheduled to be held on September 13.

On Tuesday, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted expressing concern for JEE candidates, as well as for those who have written the SSC Railway examinations in 2018 and are yet to get their results. “Modi Govt’ is jeopardising India's future. Arrogance is making them ignore the genuine concerns of the JEE-NEET aspirants as well as the demands of those who took SSC and other exams. Give jobs, not empty slogans,” he tweeted, using the hashtag #SpeakUpForSSCRailwayStudents, which was the top trending tag on Twitter India throughout the day.


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Printable version | Jun 16, 2021 1:53:25 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/jee-main-begins-amid-stringent-covid-19-precautions/article32493785.ece

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