National Testing Agency has asked states to help students reach exam centres easily (Representational)
- Let students move freely to exam centres: National Testing Agency
- NTA's statement puts onus of smooth conduct of exams on states
- Some states asked centre to defer holding JEE, NEET amid Covid
The National Testing Agency that conducts key entrance exams in the country has asked all states to help engineering and medical test candidates to move freely to exam centres amid the coronavirus crisis. The Union Health Secretary, in a letter to all the states, asked them to order their district magistrates to ease inter-district movement so that students can reach their exam centres without facing any issue.
Some states, especially those run by the opposition, have asked the centre to defer holding the Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) and the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In an online meeting of chief ministers' today, in which Congress president Sonia Gandhi also participated, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren had said the "burden" of the centre's move to push ahead with JEE and NEET would "ultimately land on our head". Several states are working cautiously to bring lives to normal after the coronavirus lockdown and are keeping an eye out for factors that could lead to a spike in COVID-19 cases.
The NTA's latest direction puts the onus on the states to ensure the exams go smoothly.
"After the release of admit cards, the NTA received representations to postpone these examinations. The agency also received a large number of representations to not postpone these examinations. Both groups of students have given reasons applicable personally to them. In this scenario, NTA visualises no reason for not conducting the examinations and in the interest of students and the country, it has decided to conduct entrance examinations in September," the NTA said in a statement.
It said the attempt is "to save one academic year". "The country is about to enter into the fourth phase of un-lockdown (Unlock 4) from September 1, 2020, and many of the activities have opened up. The academic calendar of the current year 2020-21 has also been affected adversely, as in the absence of the entrance examinations, the admissions in the first semester of engineering and medicine undergraduate courses could not happen so far. This has impacted adversely the academic career of the students," the NTA said.
The NTA said if the entrance exams are postponed further, they will put students of government colleges at a disadvantage as against private college students who do not need to appear for competitive exams and have already started an online module.
The NTA's reasoning is that some 24 lakh candidates are scheduled to appear in JEE and NEET and losing one academic year for them will put pressure on the system next year to accommodate two years in a single sitting.
Earlier in the day, the chief ministers of seven states agreed there is a need to go to the Supreme Court against the centre's move to conduct the exams amid the pandemic.
Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has asked the state's Attorney General to speak to his counterparts in other states and draw a blueprint for an appeal in the top court.
The NTA was formed in 2017 as an autonomous body to conduct entrance examinations for admissions and fellowships in higher educational institutions. It's run by a governing body whose chairperson is MS Ananth, former director of Indian Institute of Technology, Madras.