September , 2020
The importance of being an aspirant
19:19 pm

Aritra Mitra

With over 40 lakh coronavirus patients all over the country, India is ranked second in total number of Covid-19 cases. However, the government thought that the need to conduct competitive examinations like the JEE-NEET and the UGC-NET could not be postponed.In several social media platforms, students have questioned this while also citing the government scrapping the question hour from the upcoming monsoon session of the parliament, which has been postponed from July to September, as a  precautionary measure for the Members of Parliament (MPs) because of the pandemic. The flooded highways in the flood-hit states of Bihar, Gujarat and Assam, internet restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir, limited transportation, unavailability of metros and trains- problems stressing the students apart from the pandemic- seemed to have been missed out in considerations to conduct the examinations. Further, these problems disproportionately impact students from far-flung areas and marginalised communities.The competitive examinations could have been postponed till the flood waters cleared out or the trains started operating.Aritra Basu, a UGC-NET aspirant and a resident of Madhyamgram, in the outskirts of Kolkata, told BE, “From my place, the nearest metro is more than 10 kms away and we avail the metro from Dum Dum after reaching there via local trains. As of now, we don’t know when the metro will run in Kolkata. The exam centre is at TCS Gitobitan in Salt Lake which is again 12 kms away from any metro station. Local trains are also not running and so I will be forced to rent a car to the examination centre, which is going to be very expensive.” Basu felt that the state and the central government should have arranged for special vehicles and trains, especially for applicants like him who reside in the outskirts.There is an apprehension that conducting these competitive examinations might turn out like the situation in Karnataka, where 32 students who sat for the Secondary School Leaving Certificate (SSLC) examination tested positive with Covid-19 in the month of July.Eleven students from 11 states filed a petition to the Supreme Court to postpone the JEE-NEET. According to a report by digital news media, The Print, “The Supreme Court heard the case for a few minutes and then dismissed it. Life must go on, ruled Justice Arun Mishra. He did not realise the irony that he himself was hearing cases over video conference and not in a courtroom for fear of Covid. Moreover, he has declined to receive a farewell upon his retirement due to Covid. If 28 lakh students travelling long distances to take exams in crowded centres does not pose a Covid risk, why can’t court hearings be held as usual?”The Print report further states, “We are being told that India will suddenly have no doctors and no engineers if the examinations are not held on time.” This gives room for thought – where will the current doctors and engineers disappear if the joint entrance examinations of 2020 are delayed by a few months? In fact, with the unemployment rate at an all-time high and huge layoffs because of the pandemic, there is a high possibility that many students may have to meet with a fate similar to that of Sarada, a software engineer from Hyderabad who lost her job and started to sell vegetables to help her father who was also in the same business.In West Bengal, only 25% of candidates were able to appear for the examinations on the second day of JEE mains. Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister, West Bengal told the PTI, “Out of 4,652 candidates for JEE in West Bengal only 1,167 could appear for it despite all arrangements been made by the state government.” However, certain applicants stated that the complete lockdown in West Bengal on August 31, the day before the JEE mains started, was a real problem for them as they failed to reach Kolkata from the outskirts and districts. Moreover, many could not afford to stay in a lodge or hotel.In the UGC guidelines, which was released in April, it was stated, “Grading of the students could be composite of 50% marks on the basis of the pattern of internal evaluation adopted by the universities and the remaining 50% marks can be awarded on the basis of performance in the previous semester only (if available). The internal evaluation can be continuous evaluation, prelims, mid-semester, internal assignments or whatever name is given for student progression.” However, in a revised set of guidelines in the beginning of July, UGC stated that the universities must conduct examinations for the final year students by the end of September. This decision was challenged and an appeal was made to the Supreme Court. Nevertheless, on August 28, 2020, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the UGC.Deedhiti Ghosh, a final year post-graduate student from Jadavpur University, told BE, “Our final semester results were already published when the UGC came up with its new guidelines in July. This new directive really made the future of many students uncertain, especially those who were placed during the campus placements. Moreover, many students are from rural areas where the internet and electricity connections are very weak. It will be a challenge for them if online examinations are being conducted.” 

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