Exam warriors in Covid gear: JEE-Mains conducted amid 'new normal'

Students appearing for the Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) Main which began on Tuesday, used autorickshaws, cabs and private vehicles to reach their exam centres. As a precautionary measure in view of the Covid-19 pandemic, students were given fresh masks in sealed packets once they entered the centre and were asked to discard the masks they had worn from home.

All students appearing for the JEE Main, the computer-based test for admissions to undergraduate courses in the Indian Institute of Technology (IITs) and the National Institute of Technology (NITs) conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA), were instructed to carry hand sanitisers and water bottles from home. At the entry point of the centre, the examinees' body temperatures were checked and the fresh masks handed out to wear throughout the examination.

Student Devanshu Gupta, who appeared for the exam, said, "When I entered the exam centre, a new mask was provided by the exam staff. We had to wear masks throughout the exam and maintain physical distancing. It was challenging to wear a mask for four hours continuously."

The chaos outside exam centres was alarming because many parents who had come to drop off their students crowded outside, said Mukti Sen, another student. "The standard operating procedures (SOP) safety guidelines are followed inside exam centres. But before and after the exam, outside the centres, it is quite risky as both parents and students tend to crowd and move in groups, which could spread the virus infection. It is difficult to maintain physical distancing, as many parents accompany students," Sen said.

Vipul Nair, another student, said, "Reaching the exam centre is the hurdle. I used my private vehicle because I did not want to risk travelling by local train. Many students are getting to their centres using autorickshaws, cabs and private vehicles, which they feel are safer, as opposed to public transport."

Over 1,10,313 candidates are appearing for the JEE Main from September 1 to 6 in 74 centres in Maharashtra, according to NTA data. The NTA has increased the number of exam centres from 570 to 660. A total of 9,53,473 candidates are preparing for JEE Main this year.

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