ICAI - Nov'20 Exams - ICAI ignores Student's and their Family's Safety

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To
Honourable Finance Minister Mrs. Nirmala Sitharaman
Ministry of Corporate Affairs,
Government of India

Through,

The Secretary,
Ministry of Corporate Affairs,
Government of India,
NEW DELHI - 110 001

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing this mail expecting immediate intervention from your esteemed self to you since I will be appearing for the ICAI CA Examination in November 2020 that will commence from 21st Of November 2020 in all states across India. ICAI has issued a 7 pages’ guideline on 8th of October 2020, wherein prima facie in my personal belief and as per the information received via many sources ICAI has allotted more than 200 students per centre per day which is a violation of guidelines of the Ministry of Home Affairs.

As per the Revised SOP order dated 27th October 2020, The Ministry of Home Affairs vide its order no. 40-3/2020-DM-I(A) extended the Guidelines dated 30.09.2020 up to 30.11.2020 which has prescribed the following important measures that should be ensured and strictly followed in order to ensure safety of citizens of India. The same is also the guidelines to be followed for the safe conduct of examination in the country.

1. A maximum of 50% occupancy of the hall capacity, with a ceiling limit of not more than 200 persons. I believe that the ceiling limit of 200 persons per day (including students, staff, support staff) inside each examination centre will be strictly followed and people more than 200 per day will not be allowed inside the centre premise and other facilities whatsoever will be as per the guidelines issued by MHA & will also adhere to the respective State Government’s guidelines that has to be followed as notified by the respective State Government from time to time and will be duly complied by each examination centre.
[MHA order no. 40-3/2020-DM-I(A) dated 30 September 2020 Point 1 Clause (Vii)]

2. Physical distancing of at least 6 feet to be followed as far as feasible.
[Point 4 of Ministry of Home Affairs D.O. No. 40-3/2020-DM-I(A) dated 27th October 2020]

Following are our genuine concerns which we are facing:

1. Approximately 4.71 lakhs students will appear for this examination which will last for twenty-five days. The duration is quite long and this examination is the first examination to be conducted by any institution in India for such a long duration during this pandemic. Hence such examinations require all your attention and as a remedial measure, your necessary directions for the safe and smooth conduct of exams. The Institute is assuring its best but the ground realities are not in tune with the institute assurances.

2. There is a total mess up affairs at the institute level. The students have received the wrong admit cards, the centres chosen by the institute lack basic facilities and hygiene, students are concerned that these centres are not well equipped to conduct examinations efficiently. The institute is constantly changing the centres on its own convenience. Even yesterday which is 3 days before examination, students are getting e-mail of changes in examination centre.

3. On a popular request, the Institute has agreed to provide another additional attempt in Jan /Feb and given an opportunity to opt-out from the November 2020 attempt. But the irony of their declaration is that no date sheet has been provided. No clarification with regard to conditions for opt out and documentary evidence required to avail opt out. The students at large are unclear and confused with the intention of the institute since none of the queries raised with regard to opt out scheme were answered. The major stakeholders i.e. the students have lost their faith and trust in their mother institutions due to mishandling of issuing SOPs, admit cards and unclear clarifications. The delay in issuing numerous guidelines has only added the unrest for lakhs of students and their parents.

4. I had repeatedly requested ICAI to issue a white paper on the preparations, strength of students at centres and 100% matching with the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. But it’s a matter of great shock that the institute has failed to take note of the urgency of various matters which are directly related to us.

5. The conditions of the examination centres are poor. There were MHA guidelines/ Supreme Court directions to increase the exam centres and this institute has divided the same examination centre into parts/blocks and treating each part/block as a separate stand-alone centre to fulfil the norms but practically its gross violations of the numerous directions issued by authorities from time to time.

6. The centres are falling in containment zones. The ICAI official is not ready to accept that the centres are in containment zones. The ICAI official was indirectly stating that the government site http://covidhotspots.in is misguiding and no area is a containment zone now. Further, the President has asserted that containment zone students can write the papers but MHA guidelines don’t allow this. Students have been allotted centres in containment zones which are nothing but a forced opt-out plan. This is nothing but playing with our lives.

7. Our requirement is safe conduct of exams with no ambiguity and timely addressal of our concerns. Institute has been providing us affirmation about the happening of the exam instead of responding to our grievances. We are the future of our families, so we are having immense responsibility towards them. It’s not about our safety but for our family’s safety. This time it’s a question of the life of all the students and their families too. This is to be mentioned that not everyone is blessed with big houses, strong financial background and even not with good health. There’s also a possibility that parents and grandparents of many students have some diseases like diabetes, sugar, asthma as these people are more exposed to Covid-19 than a normal human being. Can anyone ignore the number of daily cases in the Capital itself?8. We are well prepared for the exam and ready to move forward professionally however our faith in the ICAI management is dropping down. There is no commitment from the ICAI to regain our faith on account of regular lapses on their part. Only two days left to start the exams, but at large students are in a dilemma. Our apprehensions are backed by the overall situations of the centres such as computer halls, nursery schools and closed buildings have been selected as examination centres.

9. Further, keeping in mind the increasing number of Covid-19 positive cases in the country, and the possibility of the pandemic reaching its peak around the first week of December, due to the congregation of students at the limited number of centres, there is a very high risk of infection of Covid-19.

10. Most students are provided centres substantially far from their residence, the lack of transportation facilities like public transport, the limited restarting of railways, and the unavailability of safe food, accommodation and medical facilities near the examination centres, are not just added cost but extremely unsafe and stressful.

11. It is prayed that necessary instructions be issued to the council of The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India keeping in view the right to equality and life as fundamental rights of the students.

12. As per ICAI SOP examination centres will be sanitized daily after each paper. For confirming the same we had contacted a few examination centres to which they responded that the onus lies with the institute not them.

13. If during the exam any student is found COVID positive then what will happen to remaining students who have come in contact with that student?
As per MHA Guidelines if we come in contact with any COVID positive person then we have to self-quarantine for 14 days.

14. If the Centre comes under a Containment Zone, then how will ICAI go forward with the examination?
If they do continue exams disregarding the situation it puts hundreds of students in a grave situation.
Not to forget, the trade unions have called for a nationwide general strike on 26th November, 2020. Since the transport workers have also given their consent to participate in the movement, commuting might become a severe problem.

Further, it is pertinent to note that as per point 10 of the guidelines issued by Ministry of Home Affairs on 30th September 2020, any person violating the measures stated in the guidelines will be liable to be proceeded against as per the provisions of Section 51 to Section 60 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, besides legal action under section 188 of the IPC shall be Initiated.

As per Section 51 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, if any person refuses to comply with any direction given by or on behalf of the Central Government or the State Government or the National Executive Committee or the State Executive Committee or the District Authority under this Act, shall on conviction be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine, or with both, and if such obstruction or refusal to comply with directions results in loss of lives or imminent danger thereof, shall on conviction be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years.

The reason we are highly concerned is because, there are many students who are affected by COVID-19 but are planning to attend the examination by taking paracetamol tablets before exams to get through the thermal/temperature checking process, (But the threshold temperature has not been defined by the institute) and this might result in a spread of the COVID-19 infection. Which is largely dangerous not just for the students and staff present in the concerned centre but also their families and society as a whole. We tried our best to take forward these issues and concerns with the mother body (ICAI), but to our surprise all these were unanswered till date.

We have decided to reach the Honourable Ministry of Home Affairs to explain our concerns with a positive mindset that the Ministry will direct ICAI accordingly considering the lives of 4.71 lakhs students and their families along with the nation’s situations in this pandemic.