Union Minister of Education Ramesh Pokhriyal, on Saturday, told News18 that the Central Government has come to the decision to conduct National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (Undergraduate) and Joint Entrance Exam (Main) after careful and due consideration.
Speaking to the news channel, Pokhriyal said: "Health of our students is the topmost priority but their education is a close second, which is why we have made every arrangement at (an exam) centre to hold exams in a safe and secure manner. You are saying exams can wait, but we all know that JEE was scheduled to be held in April but looking at the situation we pushed it back by four months. Likewise, NEET was to be held in May which is now being held in September. So we took these decisions after carefully looking at the situation."
"It is true that it has been difficult but we do not know how long will this coronavirus last. We have to learn to live with this and move forward. That is why Supreme Court is also saying that the year should not be wasted," Pokhriyal added.
When asked about the difficulties faced by rural students, the minister said that the education ministry was closely coordinating with Ministry of Home Affairs to ensure students face no travel restrictions.
"We have been coordinating with the MHA and we have tried to help students as much as possible. Besides the admit cards given to students will also act as a pass and this has been conveyed to the health, home and education secretaries of all states. We are in constant touch with the states," the minister said.
Placing the onus on states to make travel arrangements for students who are finding it difficult to reach their respective exam centres, Pokhriyal said: "This is not a Central Government exam. It is an exam to select the students from all states, so the states should step forward and help students who are in any kind of difficulty. State governments should make sure the children reach safely and securely to the exam centres."
The minister had earlier too defended the decision to go ahead with these cruicial exams, which sees lakhs of aspirants apply from all parts of the country each year.
"National Testing Agency (NTA) officials told me that over 7 lakh candidates have downloaded JEE (Main) admit cards while over 10 lakh aspirants have downloaded NEET admit cards. This shows that students want the exams be held at any cost," Pokhriyal told PTI on Thursday.
"We have received mails from students and parents who are in favour of holding exams as they have been preparing for the exams from at least two three years," he added.
He also said that the Central Government has added more centres for the student's convenience and to prevent overcrowding at centres.
However, several students have dismissed the Union minister's deduction, stating that they had to download the admit card to find out the details of the centre alotted to them for the exams.
JEE exam centres have been increased to 660 from 570 while there are now 3,842 NEET centres, up from 2,546, the minister said, adding that 99 percent students have been allotted the centre of their choice.
Meanwhile, some states announced on Saturday that they will be providing free travel and accomodation for students to esnure their safety.
These exams have already been deferred twice in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The JEE (Main) exam was originally scheduled to be held from 7-11 April, but postponed to 18-23 July, whereas the NEET-UG was originally scheduled for 3 May, but was pushed to 26 July.
They were postponed again and while the NEET exam is scheduled to be held on 13 September, engineering entrance exam JEE I(Main) has been planned from 1-6 September.
Around 8.58 lakh candidates have registered for JEE (Main) and 15.97 lakh students have registered for NEET.
With inputs from PTI