We’ve Failed Our Students: No Entry for Boy Who Travelled 700 Kms from Bihar to Bengal for NEET Exam

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We’ve Failed Our Students: No Entry for Boy Who Travelled 700 Kms from Bihar to Bengal for NEET Exam

Illustration: Mitesh Parmar

All through the last few months, a debate has raged over the decision to hold the Joint Entrance Exam and National Eligibility cum Entrance Test this year, with the lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic still in effect in most parts of the country. On Sunday, a young NEET aspirant from Bihar had to go through what seems like a scene from a movie — travelling over 700 kilometers in 24 hours to make it for his exam, only to arrive 10 minutes late and be informed that he wouldn’t be allowed in.

A resident of Darbhanga, Santosh Kumar Yadav travelled across states, changing two buses on the way, to make it to his centre in Kolkata. He arrived at Salt Lake City at 1:40 pm, however, ten minutes after the deadline had lapsed, and was informed by authorities at the venue that he would have to wait for another year to appear.

“I boarded a bus at Darbhanga at 8 am on Saturday to reach Muzaffarpur. From there I took a bus to Patna but there was a traffic jam and I was delayed by almost six hours,” Yadav said. “I pleaded with the authorities but they said I was late. I lost a year.”

Candidates this year were asked to arrive at the venue three hours prior to the exam, for authorities to carry out mandated health checks. The inconvenience caused by this measure, as well as the floods that have ravaged large parts of the country, and the expectation that students would have to travel long distances in the middle of a pandemic to reach their centres, has been the matter of political debate for months.

Some, such as Congress member Abhishek Manu Singhvi have argued that the students should have been offered some concessions, given the situation. But that doesn’t seem to have been in the case with Yadav.

Despite the numerous arrangements made, a number of students have reported similar delays. During the JEE, which was held last month, one student from Gosaba in the Sundarbans said he had to cycle 75 kilometres, and spend two hours on public transport to reach his venue in Salt Lake City on time.

Several other students in Nasik, Maharashtra, meanwhile, missed their NEET exam on Sunday, this time after arriving at the wrong venues. The centres of some candidates had been changed a few days ago over COVID-19 measures, The Times of India reported, which candidates had been informed about via SMS.

At this point, it seems as though the decision to hold the two most coveted exams in this country during a pandemic, has led to heartbreak for several young aspirants, who will crucially now lose a year on their academic journey. Just another casualty of 2020.