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Medical students forced to write semester exams in Maharashtra amid Covid-19

India is facing the second wave of Chinese virus ‘Covid-19’ and third wave is expected anytime soon. Over Two-and-half lakh population has officially died due to Covid in India. People have been facing acute shortage of essential life-saving goods including oxygen, ventilator, medicines, and plasma. Despite running the biggest vaccination program ever, only around 2% of Indians have been successfully vaccinated, owing to our vast population. At such a dangerous time, over 98% of India is under lockdown and is not allowed to come out of their houses unless it’s urgent. Offices are closed, schools are shut, and flights are suspended while businesses are stopped. The whole nation is halted due to the pandemic just to safeguard the life of the masses.

In such a pandemic, Maharashtra University for Health Science has announced to examine students of the second and third year in June. At a time when the highest fatality rate due to Covid in India is from Maharashtra and Maharashtra being one of the largest contributors of Covid cases in the nation, it is difficult to digest the fact that the university has announced to conduct the examination in physical mode. It is apparent to mention here that the board exams of CBSE have been cancelled this year because of the severity of the situation and the demands to conduct NEET and JEE entrance examinations online which are the entrance examinations for Medical and Engineering students in India.

The decision of the Maharashtra University for Health Science is even more surprising as it comes at a point when Maharashtra is under lockdown till June 1. Since a lot of students pursuing their Medical course in the state are not from Maharashtra, they’re most likely at their home. Due to pandemics, all hostels have been shut by the government thus forcing students to return to their home state. Now compelling students to return to Maharashtra for an exam that could otherwise be taken online not only is wrong but could turn out to be fatal. When social distancing is the best measure to fight Covid-19, students will have to mostly commute through public transport to return to Maharashtra. This could automatically make them Super-Spreader of this fatal virus. At a time when the state is closed till June 1, it makes no sense to conduct an examination in the physical mode from June 2.

Policymakers need to understand the practical constraints on the ground and stop living in an illusion. Even those students who are from Maharashtra will also have to travel from their home town through public transport to their college. The hostels where students will be staying will become the hotbed of Covid which could be easily avoided by the university and government. India is currently undertaking the largest Vaccine drive in the world, yet it’ll take 2-3 years to vaccinate everyone and significant time to vaccinate a large population.

As it goes even without saying, health is wealth. These are Medical students who would become doctors in the future and save humankind. It’ll be anti-human and anti-national to put their lives at risk when there are alternate options available. At a time when even Supreme Court is running virtually, it would be better to have the examinations through virtual mode. In case it isn’t possible to conduct online examinations, students must be passed to next semester based on their internal assessment. When the nation is struggling and losing their lives daily, examinations cannot and shouldn’t be conducted. Student associations on multiple occasions have moved representation before concerned authorities and ministry, however, no response has been given forcing them to book their travel tickets while risking their lives.

At a time when final year Medical students are appointed as doctors in Hospital’s across India to save humankind, can we afford to lose future doctors?

Author: Adv. Shashank Shekhar Jha
Legal Editor, GoaChronicle.com

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