Around 2.5 million Indian students face exams amid Covid-19 surge

New Delhi, Sep 1 (efe-epa).- India’s most important university entrance exams kicked off on Tuesday with nearly 2.5 million students set to participate amid a controversy over the authorities going ahead with the tests despite a continuous surge in Covid-19 cases in the country, with critics calling for a suspension.

The Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) for undergraduate engineering and architecture courses in reputed national institutions began on Tuesday in exam centers across the country and is set to continue until Sunday.

Another important examination for getting admissions in medical colleges, called the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), is set to be held on Sep. 13.

Both tests had been postponed several times this year due to the raging coronavirus pandemic.

The National Testing Agency (NTA) and the Indian government have in recent weeks defended holding the exams by citing precautionary measures to prevent infections among the millions of young aspirants.

“The number of examination centers have been increased from 570 to 660 (in case of JEE main) and 2546 to 3843 (in case of NEET),” the ministry of education said in a statement last week.

However, the assurances have failed to satisfy a large number of concerned students as India has already registered over 3.6 million coronavirus cases and witnessed record single-day tallies of over 78,000 cases in recent days.

The calls for postponing the tests have been the loudest on social media, although the issue has also been raised in the courts and in the political sphere.

In early August, 11 students approached the Supreme Court with an appeal to stop the JEE and NEET.

However, the top court opined that “though there is pandemic situation, (…) ultimately life has to go on and the career of the students cannot be put on peril for long and a full academic year cannot be wasted.”

A number of states ruled by opposition parties had also opposed the exams and a students’ organization affiliated to the main opposition party, the Indian National Congress, even began a hunger strike.

Even the renowned Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg had tweeted last week that it was “deeply unfair that students of India are asked to sit national exams during the Covid-19 pandemic and while millions have also been impacted by the extreme floods.”

The tests come at a time when the Covid-19 infection curve has continued to rise in India, the third worst affected country worldwide in terms of number of cases behind the United States and Brazil.

Indian virologist Shahid Jameel told EFE that although easing restrictions and reopening the economy had become a necessity in the country, a limited lockdown could help reduce the number of infections. EFE-EPA


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