The National Testing Agency (NTA) has started conducting the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE)-Main for undergraduate engineering aspirants from Tuesday, despite protests over the safety concerns for students and others owing to the raging coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak.
Around 858,000 students will appear for the test at 660 centres across the country between September 1 and 6.
Earlier on August 25, NTA had announced that besides JEE-Main, it would also hold the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) for undergraduate medical and dental aspirants on September 13.
The JEE (Main) is for admission to engineering colleges such as National Institutes of Technology (NITs), Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and other centrally-funded technical institutes.
The JEE-Main, which is being held in two shifts of morning and evening, started at 7.30am on Tuesday. The entrance exam for admission to an undergraduate degree in architecture will also be held on Tuesday.
NTA and the Central government’s bid to conduct JEE-Main and NEET has sparked off a row, where the opposition parties have questioned the move amid the pandemic.
However, the government has been adamant, as it has argued that the aspirants’ academic year would be in jeopardy.
Education minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank on Monday appealed to all states to ensure candidates could appear for JEE-Main smoothly.
“After my interactions with the chief ministers and administrative level officials of almost all the states, I can assure all the candidates and their parents/guardians that they will be provided all possible assistance. My best wishes for the bright future of all of you!” Pokhriyal tweeted on Monday evening.
Railway Minister Piyush Goyal on Monday also tweeted, saying that his ministry has allowed JEE-Main and NEET aspirants and their parents to travel by special suburban services in Mumbai on the days of the examinations. “Supporting students appearing for NEET and JEE examinations, Railways has permitted them, and their guardians to travel by special suburban services in Mumbai on exam days. General passengers are requested not to commute,” he tweeted.
However, several candidates expressed apprehensions about their safety.
Avya Sharma (18) a resident of east Delhi’s Krishna Nagar and a JEE-Main aspirant, said: “My father will pick and drop me to the centre since it’s unsafe to take private taxis. I will wear a mask and hand gloves, and carry a hand sanitiser. I am scared about my safety. My parents are asking me to maintain social distance norms. We cannot afford to miss the examination, despite the extraordinary circumstances.”
NTA has prepared an elaborate protocol to ensure social distancing at examination centres.
The authorities have increased the number of centres in a bid to maintain social distancing norms.
Following are the SoPs issued by the NTA for the examination centres:
Each examination centre will have the following additional inventory
1) Gloves and masks for all staff on examination duty
2) Gloves and masks for candidates in case they do not come with their own hand sanitiser at entry and inside the examination centres as needed.
3) Spray bottles, sponges/cloth for disinfecting items such as desk/table, door handles, etc.
4) Disinfectant liquid with 1% sodium hypochlorite for spraying in the examination centres
5) Liquid handwash/soap in washrooms
6) Thermo guns to check temperature of candidates and all staff on duty
How will the day begin at the examination centres?
1) Examination centres’ floors and walls, doors, gates, will be cleaned with disinfectant backpack spray machines
2) Candidate Seating Area to be thoroughly sanitized (desk and chair)
3) All washrooms will be cleaned and sanitised
4) Door handles, staircase railing, lift buttons, etc. will be disinfected
5) Wheelchairs, if present, at the examination centres will be sanitised
6) Used gloves and masks will be disposed off at the end of the day
Managing candidates after entry into the examination centre:
1) Staggered time slots for reporting in a bid to avoid overcrowding
2) At the entry of registration room, body temperature will be recorded using thermal scanner
3) Seating arrangement to comply with social distancing norm.
4) An invigilator will not touch any document of the candidate.
Items permitted into the examination room/hall for candidates:
4) Transparent water bottle
6) Examination-related documents
1) The candidates will be permitted to move out in an orderly manner – one at a time.
2) Volunteers will be present along the exit path to ensure orderly movement of candidates.