17:19 GMT21 September 2020
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    The Indian government has faced a lot of criticism for allowing several undergraduate exams for medical and engineering students. But quashing a plea challenging the government's decision, the Supreme Court of India had held that "life must go on".

    Examination centres across India started Joint Entrance Examination (JEE)-Main for undergraduate engineering aspirants on Tuesday, despite opposition from students and political parties. The centres featured staggered seating, and masks and sanitisers were made available to students.

    ​Nearly 858,000 students will take the test at 660 centres across the country between 1 and 6 September as the pandemic continues to rage across  the country, which recorded over 80,000 new COVID-19 cases in a day on 30 August.

    Prashant Sharma, a resident of Delhi's Shahdara neighbourhood, said he did not step out of the house during the pandemic as he was busy preparing for exams. "I am fully prepared with face masks and sanitisers, but I am more scared for my father, who'll be dropping me off at the examination centre. He's in the high-risk category."

    Gearing up to receive thousands of students, the examination centres' floors, walls, doors and gates will be cleaned with disinfectants. Time slots will be staggered to avoid overcrowding, the exam proctors is not allowed to touch students' documents, and they will undergo temperature checks to ensure that they don't have a fever.

    The federal government has also permitted students and their guardians to make use of special suburban travel services to travel to Mumbai on exam days.

    ​Arguing that if students do not appear for exams their academic year would be in jeopardy, federal Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank has asked all the states to ensure that the process remains smooth.

    "On the basis of interactions with the Chief Ministers (state chiefs) and administrative level officials of almost all the states, I assure all the candidates and their guardians that they will be provided all possible assistance...," he said.

    ​The government's decision to hold exams amid a pandemic did not go down well with some students and the opposition parties.

    While several students expressed issues with the commute, stating that the examination centres are too far from their homes, others noted the flood-like situations in their states.

    ​Global climate activist Greta Thunberg also backed the students' demand to postpone the exams amid the pandemic and flooding in India.

    Meanwhile, India has recorded 69,921 COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours. There are 785,996 active coronavirus cases, India has registered 65,288 deaths so far. However, 2,839,882 people have already recovered and been discharged.


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    COVID-19, Education, India
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