The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed the petition filed by six state governments seeking a review of its first dismissal of their plea to postpone the JEE and NEET exams.

The JEE Mains have already started and the NEET exams are later this month. Many students expressed their unease in taking the exam amid the accelerating Covid-19 epidemic, but now they may have no other option.

Many are wondering how they will manage to appear for their exams. Deep Raj, who will take the NEET on the 13th, told The Citizen that “with floods and a looming Pandemic threat, stepping out of the house feels dangerous. Reaching the center for the exams with the limited travel options would only add to it.”

His exam center is in New Delhi, where was preparing for the exams before Covid. Now he will have to travel through it from his home state of Bihar.

Another NEET aspirant from Bihar, Atul Kumar Ashish, whose exam center is in Ranchi, shared similar concerns: “All the special trains announced by the Railways are for local travel. I am hoping there would be buses announced, otherwise I’ll have to see how I manage to reach the center.”

As per various media reports, many students in various parts of the country were unable to reach their exam centers to take the JEE Main. On the first day of the JEE, only 54% of registered students were able to sit for the engineering entrance exam, according to data released by the union education ministry.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday said that almost 75% students had missed their exams on the first day in the state. Gujarat, Assam and Jharkhand also reported lower turnout on the first day of the JEE Main.

Due to underprovision these exams are among the most competitive in the world, with over a million students trying each year for a few thousand seats. Needless to say, they are working under huge pressure.

According to Deep Raj, “It is important to be at peace while giving such exams, but now when I’ll be sitting for my exam, I'll have this constant fear of whether I have been infected, and with that constant thought in my mind it would be difficult to concentrate on the paper.”

Divyanka, whose second attempt at the NEET is coming up next week, is also worried. “We all have seen the impact of this Pandemic, so I will definitely be worried while giving my exams, and it will only add to the exam pressure.

“I just hope that all the safety protocols are followed.”

All the standard protocols for safety were largely maintained, according to Prince Kumar who took the JEE MAIN on the 3rd, “but I still had a little fear, as one never knows who is infected and who is not.”

After refusing to pursue widespread testing for many months, governments in India finally accelerated testing in mid-July to the current 1 million samples per day.

Students expressed concerns about how well official Standard Operating Procedures would be followed at their centers. Ashish, attempting the NEET, is “worried about the SOPs being followed, as I believe properly following SOPs at such a large scale would be a challenge.”

“Nobody is completely sure, and are worried about their safety. I also feel worried because some of the instructions in the SOPs aren’t very clear, but we can only hope that nothing goes wrong,” said Sanjiv Raj, also taking the NEET.

Students had mixed views about the decision to go ahead with exams, with some saying the government could have postponed them further, and others who said that while there’s definitely a risk, conducting the exams was necessary as otherwise the sessions would have gotten delayed.

“They could have managed the delayed semester by cancelling the holidays and incorporating them in the academic schedule,” said Raj.

“I believe it wasn’t necessary to conduct these exams now, as there are many students who will be facing lot of troubles because of floods and limited travel options,” said another student, Pankaj.

“There was the possibility of conducting exams after Covid, but at the same time we don’t know how long this pandemic will go on for,” said Ashutosh Kumar.

Divyanka thinks the exams had to be held, but the whole uncertainty regarding exam dates and cancellation has added a lot to students’ anxiety.