The latest flash point in the love triangle between Government of India, its opponent and/or critic and Supreme Court of India is NEET and GATE. These are exams conducted for entrance admissions to some of the prestigious colleges and universities in India. Critics and opponents are of the opinion that exams shouldn’t be held in light of COVID-19 pandemic. There have been already 2 rulings by The Supreme Court (one verdict and second one for a review petition). In both cases SC gave go ahead to conduct the exams. 

To be fair, cancelling / postponing exam prima-facie appears to be a valid demand. Due to pandemic there has been a very widespread destructions. To attend and appear for exams, millions of students have to travel to exam centres. Even without pandemic, that journey is an ordeal in itself. Due to pandemic restrictions, Trains and Flights are not fully operational. Also availability of hotels and lodges where student and their families stay is a big question mark. In an era when “Stay Home and Stay Safe” is general mantra travelling to attend exams looks bit excessive. 

Having said that, if there are no entrance exams (which means no admissions) then students are going to suffer a lot. Most students would have a year wasted in their academic. The cost of this gap year is going to be huge emotionally and financially. Significant population of students and their parents can’t afford a gap year. So they are fully supportive of the exams and admissions going ahead. 

Interestingly (but not surprisingly) there is another dimension to this debate towards which very little attention has been given. This aspect has wide ranging implications. In country like India where there is fixed retirement age, skipping admission for a year is going to create a big problem. Certain percentage of workforce is going to retire in 4 to 5 years time. So there are going to be vacancies in Government jobs across various levels. But if there no graduates passing out of colleges (in case of skipped admission for 2020 – 2021 academic year) how would those critical vacancies be filled? This problem gets worse in certain section like health care. As part of 5 ½ year MBBS course, there is one year reserved for internship. If there are no admissions this year, 5 years down the line there could be a huge shortage of interns and qualified Doctors across hospitals.

Let’s be very honest about something. There is not going to be a miracle which would result in COVID-19 disappearing in January 2021. For all practical purposes, this problem is going to be there for at least couple of years (till the time everybody is going to get a vaccine shot). So cancelling or pushing out exams is not a long term solution. Only way to address this problem is to follow guidelines for social distancing and other COVID-19 precautions and go ahead with exams and admissions…

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