Over four lakh admit cards for medical entrance exam NEET were downloaded within three hours on Wednesday, sources said. The National Testing Agency (NTA) released the admit cards for the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) at 12 pm on Wednesday.
"Admit cards of NEET were available for download at 12 today. Over 4 lakh candidates have downloaded in first 3 hours," sources said.
While the NEET is planned on September 13, engineering entrance exam JEE Main is scheduled from September 1-6. Around 9.53 lakh candidates have registered for JEE-Mains and 15.97 lakh students have registered for NEET.
Amid rising clamour for postponement of the crucial exams in view of rising COVID-19 cases, the Ministry of Education (MoE) officials had reiterated on Tuesday that the exams will be conducted as per schedule in September.
Increasing the number of examination centres, alternate seating plan, fewer candidates per room and staggered entry and exit are among the steps the NTA will take for safely conducting NEET and JEE next month.
"The number of examination centres have also been increased from 570 to 660 (for JEE Main) and 2,546 to 3,843 (for NEET). While JEE-Mains is a computer-based test, NEET is a pen-paper test," the NTA said in a statement on Tuesday.
"Additionally, in case of JEE-Mains, the number of shifts have been increased from the earlier 8 to 12, and the number of candidates per shift has been reduced from earlier 1.32 lakh to 85,000 now," it said.
"In order to ensure proper social distancing inside the examination halls, the candidates will be seated in alternate seats in case of JEE-Mains. In case of NEET, the number of candidates per room has been reduced from 24 to 12," it added.
For ensuring social distancing outside the examination hall, the entry and exit of candidates has been staggered.
"Adequate arrangements have also been made outside the examination centers to enable candidates stand with adequate social distancing, while waiting. Candidates have also been issued an advisory guiding them about the 'Dos and Don'ts' for proper social distancing," the NTA said.
There have been demands from several quarters to further postpone the entrance exams in view of increasing coronavirus cases.
On Tuesday, Swedish teen climate change campaigner Greta Thunberg also threw her weight behind postponing the exams in view of the pandemic.
"It's deeply unfair that students of India are asked to sit national exams during the COVID-19 pandemic and while millions have also been impacted by the extreme floods. I stand with their call to #PostponeJEE_NEETinCOVID,” she said in a tweet.
Several opposition leaders in India including Congress' Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, her Odisha counterpart Naveen Patnaik, DMK president MK Stalin and Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia have demanded the exams be postponed.
The Supreme Court had last week dismissed a plea seeking postponement of the two exams amid spurt in the number of COVID-19 cases, saying precious year of students "cannot be wasted" and life has to go on.
"We find that there is absolutely no justification in the prayer made for postponement of the examination in question relating to NEET as well as JEE-Mains," the Supreme Court had said.
The NTA has also written to state governments to extend support in local movement of the candidates so that they are able to reach their examination centres on time.