There is a lot of angst going on among the student community of Karnataka that plans to take the Common Entrance Test (CET) which is to be held on 30 and 31 July. The CET is for students seeking admissions to engineering, pharma and agricultural professional courses in the state.
Over 1.94 lakh students are to take part in these exams. There has been a clamour on social media platforms that these exams should be postponed. Not just students but even youth wing groups of political parties like NSUI have supported this demand.
What is the Government of Karnataka saying? Especially since this demand is coinciding with the rising number of Covid19 positive cases – roughly 5000 every day in the last week – in Karnataka.
According to a senior official who is involved with the process to conduct the CET, the Government of Karnataka will go ahead with the exams on 30 and 31 July.
“The cases are only going to go up or remain at the same level so we feel it is better to get done with it. We have conducted exams like those for Class X in the Covid atmosphere fairly successfully and if these exams are postponed now, we may not be able to conduct them for the next 3-4 months,” said the official.
The government is also of the view that constant postponement and discussion over whether exams will be held or not creates an atmosphere of uncertainty which is not good for the student community.
Ironically, another entrance exam in Karnataka – the COMEDK Exam – for admission to the private medical, engineering and dental colleges of Karnataka has been postponed. These were to be held on 1 August but now have been put off to 19 August. Incidentally, the number of aspirants here is around 70000, much less than those for Karnataka CET.
If COMEDK on 1 August was not safe, how is it safe to conduct KCET on 30-31 July?
The Karnataka government was not in favour of COMEDK postponing its date. It tried to persuade the COMEDK exam authorities not to postpone the exam but allowed them to take the final decision.
“Whether it is 1 August or 19 August makes little difference as there won’t be a significant difference in the number of covid 19 positive cases being reported,” said the official.
Two sets of petitions have bene filed by students and the NSUI before the Karnataka High court. They will be heard on Tuesday.
On its part, the government is making elaborate arrangements to conduct these exams across 497 centres in Karnataka.
1. The Exams will be open even to asymptomatic aspirants who have tested positive for COVID-19. They will have to inform about their status in advance so that they can take the exams in separate centres.
2. Ambulances will be arranged for asymptomatic COVID-19 positive students after they produce a fitness certificate and that their exams will be held in dedicated centres and rooms with doctors and nurses in place of invigilators.
However, the government will need to clarify how is it that when the National Testing Agency (NTA) and the Union HRD ministry did not deem it safe to conduct JEE and NEET in July, how is it safe to conduct KCET.
The government also has nothing to say about the risk that will be incurred during the commute to and from the exam centre.
Over 1800 students from outside Karnataka will travel to the state to appear for the exams. While Karnataka has exempted them from quarantine and they can stay in the state for 96 hours without being quarantined, they may have to undergo compulsory home quarantine for 7 days when they return to their home state. The question is who checks each of the 1800 students for Covid19. Isn’t this putting every other student and invigilator to risk?
The NSUI points out that on one hand, the government says no one will break and violate quarantine rules. On the other hand, the government says asymptomatic Covid19 candidates can come and write the exam.