Earlier this week, the SC refused to entertain a petition seeking the postponement of the NEET and JEE this year. Justice Arun Mishra, who headed the three-judge Bench, told the petitioners:
Education should be opened up. COVID may continue for a year more. Are you going to wait for another year? Do you know what is the loss to the country and the career peril to the students?
And while this is a valid concern, the situation at hand is just not that simple.
First of all, there is still an influx of COVID-19 cases all over the country. There were 67,151 new cases just yesterday.
The risk increases when you realise there is no possible way to vet lakhs of students who will be entering the examination halls from very different and some very remote places.
And they will be locked up in a closed space in the examination halls. Even if you give them all PPE kits, it's just a bad idea to have a congregation that big.
Thermal screening would help but it cannot diagnose asymptomatic cases. So this is simply risking the lives of lakhs of people.
Students travelling would need to have proper hygienic places to stay in and have access to hygienic food in their budgets, something that can be extremely difficult, especially in these times.
While COVID is obviously the elephant in the room, there are other concerns too.
States in the North-East and parts of Bihar are literally flooded right now, as we speak. People have lost their lives and livelihoods. These students may not have a roof over their head tonight. How are they supposed to travel for the exams?
Every day in the country, 28 students lose their lives to suicide. Both NEET and JEE are stressful examinations and students have been known to take extreme steps if they fail to achieve the desired results, which seems a little difficult given all the above problems they might have to face.
The exams can be taken online but a lot of students simply cannot afford it, given that several people in this country still don't have electricity.
We are in the middle of the biggest pandemic of the 21st century. We have the third highest number of cases in the world. Half the country is underwater.
Education is important and the wheel must keep rolling, but at what cost? Are we honestly going to risk the lives of students for examinations? Isn't that inhumane?