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The Supreme Court recently dismissed a petition before it asking for the postponement of NEET and JEE exams, both of which see lakhs of aspiring applicants each year. In its order dismissing the petition, the court went on to say that "life cannot be stopped" and students should give exams as all precautions will be maintained. In stating that "life cannot be stopped" the court as well as our government has forgotten that there is a pandemic which is still continuing to grow in India, with each day seeing the 'highest ever' number of cases in a single day. The average number of cases every day has reached 68,000 now and there is no sign of this condition changing anytime soon. 

On the other hand, we have all been confronted with news of public health system failing and private hospitals charging exorbitant amounts for treatment. The lockdown imposed by the government did little as there was no investment in improving the public health system, thus it only functioned as a temporary stop-gap measure and once the unlock phase started the number of cases have also risen. With no reliable public health infrastructure in sight and a raging pandemic, asking lakhs of students to appear for exams across the nation is asking them to choose between their right to life and their right to education. 

Students have also raised the issue of examination centres being located far away from their hometowns and villages, thus requiring travel at a time when social distancing is being advocated to stem the rate of transmission of Covid-19. Even allowing for changing test centres doesn't make a difference as the centre is still at a great distance from students' homes in most cases. Moreover, most public transport is still shut across the country. So only those who can afford private cabs or own cars will be able to appear easily for these exams, while most students will have to pay a high amount for the same and also risk their lives in the process.

In addition to NEET and JEE, the entrance exam for Delhi University (DUET) and National Eligibility Test (NET), also conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA), has been scheduled for September. Both these exams also have lakhs of applicants each year. In addition to the risk of contracting Covid-19, lack of safe transport to examination centres, there is also the fact that most families have been hit hard by the economic crisis caused by the lockdown. In such a situation there is no way students have been able to prepare for exams on equal terms. Given that any 'return to normalcy' in this situation will only further increase hierarchies which exist even in normal times, we strongly demand that: 

• All entrance exams scheduled for the month of September be postponed until the Covid-19 situation improves across the country.

• Age limit for NET JRF and other exams be increased keeping in mind the special circumstances.