Over 19 lakh candidates have downloaded admit cards for medical and engineering entrance exams - NEET and JEE, officials in the Ministry of Education (MoE) said on Friday. While the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) is scheduled to be held on September 13, engineering entrance exam JEE-Main has been planned from September 1-6.
"A total of 7.6 lakh candidates for JEE-Mains and 11.49 lakh aspirants for NEET have downloaded admit cards till today," a senior ministry official said. As many as 8.58 lakh candidates have registered for the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE)-Main and 15.97 lakh have registered for NEET.
The exams have been deferred twice in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The JEE-Mains was originally scheduled to be held from April 7-11, but was postponed to July 18-23. The NEET-UG was originally scheduled for May 3, but was pushed to July 26. Subsequently, the exams were postponed again and are now scheduled in September.
The issue, which has been a matter of intense public discourse for the last few months, has evoked contrasting views with many backing the holding of the tests and arguing that not doing so would result in a "zero academic year" for students, while opposition parties and a section of activists are demanding postponement of the exams in view of the pandemic.
Ministers of six opposition-ruled states moved the Supreme Court on Friday against its order allowing holding of NEET and JEE exams physically, saying it failed to secure students' "right to life" and ignored "teething logistical difficulties" to be faced in conducting them during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to National Testing Agency (NTA) officials, the Standard operating procedure (SOP) for JEE (Main) has been developed by Tata Consultancy Services in collaboration with the Public Health Foundation of India and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
The SOP has categorically stated there will be a touch-free entry into the JEE (Main) exam centre. Increasing the number of examination centers, alternate seating plans, fewer candidates per room and staggered entry and exit are among the steps the National Testing Agency will take for safely conducting NEET and JEE in September.
These steps have been introduced to ensure adherence to social distancing norms at the centres in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, even as chorus grew for postponing the crucial exams. The NTA has also written to state governments to extend support in local movement of the candidates so that they are able to reach their examination centres on time.