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A year with no new doctors or engineers in India — that’s what delaying NEET/JEE will do

The only beneficiaries of a delayed NEET/JEE exam will be coaching mafias and private colleges who charge exorbitant fees for a seat. Not the students.

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Amidst the growing number of Covid-19 cases as well as the worsening situation of flood in some states of India, there’s a genuine concern rising amongst a section of medical and engineering aspirants who fear they will not be able to take up the JEE and NEET examination this year. Opposition parties also have protested against holding the exams this year. 

But the NEET/JEE and other competitive examinations can be conducted successfully and safely, and in a way that balances the demands of students who cannot take up the exam in September as well as those who are willing to write it this year. The exams can’t be postponed until the menace of the coronavirus subsides. Even the Supreme Court said, “ultimately, life has to go on,” while dismissing a plea by students to delay the JEE/NEET. 

If there are no exams this year, we won’t have any doctors or engineers graduating between 2024-26, depending on the duration of the course. Students will also have to compete in double the pool of aspirants next year. And the academic system will be burdened by delayed sessions for years to come. India can’t risk that.

Also read: Final-year exams must but states and UTs can approach UGC for postponement, SC rules

Initiatives at place

The Ministry of Education has said 99.7 per cent of candidates have already got their preferred choice of exam centre, which implies that most of these students will not have to travel to some far-off cities to write exams. 

Along with this, the number of JEE exam centres have been increased to 660 from 570 while there are now 3,842 NEET centres, up from 2,546, for the convenience of students.

Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ said, “A total of 7.41 lakh candidates out of 8.58 lakh appearing for JEE have downloaded admit cards. Only 332 candidates have requested for change of their centre cities, which are being considered positively. In reference to NEET, a total of 6.84 lakh candidates (out of a total of 15.97 lakh) have downloaded the admit cards in the first five hours.”

Despite the initiatives of the National Testing Agency (NTA), as well as issuance of a very strict social distancing SOP based on recommendations of a high-level committee of medical experts, the protests on social media are not subsiding.  #PostponeJEE_NEETinCOVID has become an international trend with activists like Greta Thunberg and actors such as Sonu Sood also speaking on this issue.

Their justifications to delay the examination is superficial at best.

The consequences of NEET/JEE exams not being conducted this year will be many.

Also read: Speak up for students, says Rahul Gandhi as Congress protests against holding of NEET, JEE

A grave burden

First, if no NEET exams are conducted in 2020, then we will have not a single doctor graduating in 2025/26, which will cause a massive health crisis in India — and we already have an acute shortage of doctors. According to the latest World Bank estimates (2018), India has a paltry 0.9 doctors per thousand people. All our neighbours — China (2.0), Pakistan (1.0), and Sri Lanka (1.0) — out-perform us.

The same shall apply to engineers too. The non-graduation of quality engineers in 2024-25 session in India shall severely impact India’s ambitious modernisation plans.

Further, if NEET and JEE are cancelled in 2020, similar demands will be made in other streams too. Many tweets demanding cancellation of other exams like the UPSC, CSE, NDA, CLAT, ICAI and other competitive exams have already started hogging online attention.

Can a country like India afford non-production of vital human resource pool for one whole year: no new engineers, doctors, managers, CAs, civil servants, and so on? A zero year in academics will push India’s growth story to zero.

Second, Leftist intelligentsia, a few opposition parties and BJP’s Subramanian Swamy claim that by demanding postponement of exams, they’re fighting for the interests of aspiring engineers and doctors. This may be true in the short run, but definitely not in the long run.

Over 15,97,433 students have registered for NEET this year and 8,58,273 have registered for JEE (Main). If the exams are not held this year, the aspirants will have tremendous competition next year with more students joining the competition pool. While the number of seats in top colleges will remain constant, the number of aspirants will more than double up. This will result in nearly 50 per cent of our aspirants failing to secure admission anywhere.

The only beneficiaries of this will be coaching mafias and private colleges who sell seats at exorbitant prices under the garb of ‘management quota’. The delaying of the examination from April/May to September this year has given a level-playing field to poor students, who could not afford to join coaching classes, but got additional time to study. Third, another major problem of a zero year is that it delays the academic sessions for a long time. For instance, during the Emergency of 1975-77, no academic sessions were held in Bihar and to date, the academic sessions are delayed in the state by one to three years in several universities, with the exception of Patna University and TM Bhagalpur University. Delayed sessions mean that if someone in a state university in Bihar completed the last semester in 2020, they would get their degrees only in 2022, or 2023, or 2024. Thus, a three-years’ BA programme gets completed in four to six years. This is happening in Bihar’s universities such as Magadh University, JP Narayan University, LN Mishra University and BN Mandal University.

No student would want this model emulated across the country.

Also read: If JEE is delayed, we’ll have to squeeze syllabus into less than 6 months, says IIT Delhi director

A solution for all

At a time, when the Narendra Modi government has launched the New Education Policy, which aims to bring in branch campuses of the top 100 global universities to India as well as permit India’s premier institutes to start campuses abroad, can we afford to run delayed academic sessions?

It is evident that the cancellation of competitive exams is neither feasible nor desirable. However, we also understand that there are many candidates who can’t write the exam this year due to reasons beyond their control.

So, without cancelling or further postponing exams, there are other solutions that balance the interests of students.

  1. At the time of downloading admit cards, the NTA website should give the option to candidates to ‘opt out’ of taking exams in this session. Such candidates may re-appear for the examination in the next session without paying an additional examination fee then. Furthermore, those candidates who opt out of exams in the coming week must be given an additional one year of age relaxation across all categories and the current session should not be counted as part of their exam attempts.
  2. Conduct the exam as per schedule by maintaining strict social distancing guidelines, which have already been issued by the NTA.
  3. Start the new academic session latest by November.

This solution, if implemented by the NTA, will address the concerns of all students: the silent majority willing to write exams as well as the protesting students who have genuine grievances. As a former student activist during my JNU years, I respect the outrage on social media. I urge such students to divert their focus from demanding indefinite postponing of examinations to demanding the government make the examination optional.

The writer is currently working in service of the Ministry of Education as Deputy Advisor, Unit for International Cooperation at the National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration and is responsible for the Americas and the G20 Division. He may be reached @gjha88. Views are personal.

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  1. Very sensible thoughts of the writer. There never is a “good time” for exams. In May June — “heat wave”, in winter months “cold wave”. Now floods — as if first time country experiencing floods.

    Yeah, postpone “a bit” — by few months. As if situation will become “normal” by then. What guarantee is there? In fact we could be staring at several lakhs of new cases in a few months time.

    So, candidates study hard for your exams!

  2. Lol the writer of this shitty post us also from NTA god will decide the fate of these people who put the life of children en in peril
    Dr. Nishank said we will have a loss of 4800 crore but at the same time a plane of 8400 crore is coming for PM personal travel. I am suprised by the priorities set by this BJP government

  3. We have far too many engineering colleges in our country. Our nation is already not able to absorb so many engineers.
    Many engineers who have passed out this year will not have jobs in hand nor will they be able to join work even if they got selected in campus because of prevailing Covid situation and the bad condition of the economy.

    The only people who benefit from starting academic courses soon are the colleges or universities because they need student fees to sustain their institutions. Faculty and administration of institutions have to be paid.

    Even if the exams are held, I doubt if even government institutions like NIT or IIT will reduce their fees. IIT charges hefty fee of 2 lakhs per year. Many parents in private sector are losing jobs or their businesses are facing tough times.

  4. 1. No one is asking for cancellation. Just a postponement of a month or two so that the flood situation subsides and proper arrangements for safe transport and accommodation of students can be made.

    2. Even if 99% of students have been given their first choice of centre, people need to understand that in many many cases even those first choices are hundreds of kilometres away from the village/town in which the students are living. Case in point: Bihar. Not everyone can afford private cars which are normally expensive and on certain days of examinations they increase the fare even more. Plus, traveling in public transport, staying in a hotel (provided there is one available, many have been converted to isolation wards) even if it opens up, is too much to ask from the students when the government officials are still locked up in their homes.

    3. NTA did increase the examination centres, but not the examination cities/towns, which is the real problem. So if a student who lives in a fast flung village in Bihar had to travel 200km to reach Patna for his exam when there were less Number of examination centres before, now, after it has been increased, he still had to travel the same distance. In short, increasing the examination centre will definitely help with the crowding, but it does nothing to help students from far flung areas

    4. Asking students to sit through 3 hours of exams wearing masks and solving delicate numericals involving complex calculations and speed and accuracy, while wearing gloves!!! This is madness. I urge everyone here supporting this to please try doing this for just half an hour and you’ll know what I am talking about. This is not how a 16-17 year old should be giving exams, these are kids.

    5. There will be no academic loss even if the exams are held in November and new session starts in January. There’s plenty of room for adjustments to make up for the lost 4 months over the course of next 4-5 years of MBBS or Btech course. This is an absolutely false narrative being fed into the minds of the common public to create a wrong image of the situation. As it is, an academic session consists of hardly 200 working days with just 20 working days per month. The lost 4 months (new MBBS session usually starts in September) amount to no more than 80 working days which can be easily made up for through various means such as shorter vacations, extra classes, weekend classes, doing away with co curriculars for a year or two, and so on.



  6. What is this shit!! I am a Jee aspirant and we dont want to cancel jee exam. We just want to postpone it for a short period of time thats all. As the current SOP is not upto the mark and also many regions are suffering from flood .

  7. “The only beneficiaries of a delayed NEET/JEE exam will be coaching mafias and private colleges who charge exorbitant fees for a seat.”
    Coaching mafias are the ones who are getting benefited by the happening of examinations……cuz they will get to admit new students….get some brains writer. In fact Naveen Maheshwari (Allen founder) gave money and pressurized centre to conduct examinations, Get your facts clear and then call yourself a journalist…LMAO

  8. Getting the 1st choice of centre doesn’t necessarily mean that the exam centre is close by. Many students have their 1st choice of desired exam centre very far away.
    There are flood situations in Bihar and some other states. How do you expect them to come and give exams. There will be many students who have studied hard for years but are unable to give exams bcoz of transport issues. I am thankful that I can afford private vehicles but there are large no. Of students who can’t.
    This is not just about the students its about their family as well. My dad is diabetic and a heart patient. He will be dropping me to the exam centre, I am very scared what would happen if he contracted corona virus. Even if 1 student is covid +ve, it will be disastrous. 2% might look small but if you take 25 lakh students and their parents then this 2% will be a huge no.
    We are not asking to cancel the exams we only ask for a 1-2 month delay. I agree corona isn’t going anywhere, we have to move on in life. But in the 2 month’s time, transportation will improve, especially in flood affected states. So that every child gets an equal and just opportunity to compete in exam.
    Coaching mafias will benefit if exams are taken so that they can get rid of old students and admit new ones so that their institutions keep running.
    Just bcoz we downloaded admit cards doesn’t mean we agree on giving exams. If the exam is not postponed we have to prepare for the worst.
    SOPs may work, but here we are talking about 25 lakh students as well as the parents who will accompany them to the exam centre, all of which is not a joke. Who will take responsibility of such a large no. Of lives?
    Time is already wasted, 1 sem has given ne by. But if we shorten the admission process we can still cover up the curriculum in a 5 year long course. Zero academic year will not happen.
    Career of students and the future of a nation can’t be put into jeopardy, yes, but not at the cost of their lives.
    I am no expert. I apologise for such a long reply. But I had to put my views out there. I do not mean any disrespect sir. You and other educational experts are far more knowledgeable than a 19 year old kid. But I do have the right to share my thoughts and feelings. Especially as a student will have to go through all of this.
    Thank You.

  9. Getting the first choice of centre doesn’t necessarily mean the exam centre is close by. Many students have their desired first choice of exam centre which is very far. Talking about myself I got my exam centre 25 km away which is fine for me but some of my friends have it 100 km or more than that. There are many such students whose 1st choice is still very far.
    Second thing the floods of Bihar, Assam, and some other places is making transport very difficult for the local students even for other states bcoz of covid-19 lockdown there are some restrictions. I can afford a private vehicle but there are large no. Of students who can’t.
    Third thing we are not asking the gov to cancel our exams, a 1-2 months delay is all we ask. Yes corona is not going anywhere but atleast the transportation would be acceptable till then especially for states facing flood situation.
    Fourth thing, who will take the responsibility if students get corona. It isn’t just about them but also about their family. My dad is diabetic and a heart patient, but bcoz there are no bus routes to my exam centre he will drop me there himself. I’m so worried that he might contract the virus. Even if 1 student is covid +ve it will be disastrous.
    You said the coaching mafias would benefit from exam postpone, but in reality they will benefit if the exams are done with. Their institutions are closed since lockdown, they need new batch of students to keep their classes running. So they don’t care about lives of lakhs of students, they just want their money.
    Downloading admit card doesn’t mean you want to give exams, this shouldn’t be a parameter to judge. Students downloaded them bcoz they wanted to see their exam centres, they had no choice bcoz if the gov doesn’t postpone exams then they will have to prepare for the worst.
    Time is already wasted, one semester is already gone, 2 months will not put a big dent. We can cover it in a 5 year long course. Anyways the academic year will commence from January, so it would be ideal if the admission process is shortened to cover up the time.
    Sorry for such a long reply, but I had to put my views in front of you. You and the other educational experts are far more knowledgeable than a 19 year old kid. I do not mean any disrespect. You know what is best for us, I only wanted to share my thoughts and feelings with you as a student who actually has to go through all of this.
    Thank You.

  10. Bhai seedha seedha baata kitna mila… Because Every Engineering and Medical Aspirants Know their Career better than a paid journalist right? Also, no one asked to cancel this year we asked to Postpone till situation becomes a bit normal. And also, if this year exam Postponed 1 year, next year batch also will be delayed 1 year then How The Competition Is Double? Answer this!?

  11. Most their first choice center but the thing is many states have very limited district which have exam centre. First choice isn’t the nearest. There should be at least 1-2 center in each district to minimise movement of people. Please consider these facts before publishing such articles. Try and cover how other exam were conducted in the pandemic. Compare on paper sop and practicality.

  12. A year with a deadlist engineer and doctor’s and his family.jussst open the eyes and see what is going around

  13. Abey lodu, 5th year ,4th year, 3rd year vale jo humse pehle graduate honge unka kya aisa saal jisme koi new doctor nhi aayega voh toh 4-5 saal bad aayega

  14. The move for examination is opposed by the dynasts and anti-Modi political parties . They want to indulge into dirty politking even after The Honorable Supreme Court has given life Mantra “Life has to GO ON ” . Who is going to lose if exams are not conducted ?? The youth of India , india as a whole will be loser . Exams for admission to higher institutions of knowledge should be conducted irrespective of the Anti- youth agenda of dirty politicians. Youth of India need to observe the heinous agenda of dynasts masquendering as youth ikons. Always be ready to face the life as it COMES ON. WISH YOUTH OF INDIA HAPPY FUTURE AND HAPPY CAREERS.

  15. To the writer ,
    Anyone giving views in support of holding exams during peak pandemic,
    You know what is more valuable than one year of life , the whole damn life of that person.
    You guys are treating lives of normal children like casuality of wars , like they are expendable.
    These are preventable casualties.
    Get your priorities right.
    No media is asking why india CFR is increasing, where the government mishandling took place.

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