Students wearing protective face masks wait to enter an examination centre for Joint Entrance Examination (JEE), amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Ahmedabad, India Image Credit: Reuters

Consider two numbers - India’s has become the world number one in cases of the infectious pandemic coronavirus. Some 30 lakh students have been told by an unrelenting Modi government that they compulsorily must take the entry tests for medicine and engineering - Joint Engineering Test (JEE) which starts from today.

This, when trains have not started on a normal scale, daunting transport difficulties are being faced and the prospect of COVID-19 infection spreading on a super scale is real.

Children are scared that they will go back and spread the infection to vulnerable elderly people at home, but an unrelenting Modi government is not backing down.

The Opposition is united on the issue. Chief Ministers of 11 Opposition ruled states have jointly asked the Modi government to postpone.

Sonia Gandhi, interim Congress president, and Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister of West Bengal, plan to file a review petition in the Supreme Court asking for intervention.

A senior Modi Cabinet minister told me for Gulf News that “when we have in Unlock: 4 said schools will remain closed until September 30 then it is patently unfair to ask these particular young kids to take such a risk. Government policy must be uniform and uniformly applied.”

As children and their worried parents agitate as to how to reach exam centres without a transport network, the Modi government is silent.

Read more from Swati Chaturvedi

A huge social media campaign by the children met with no response from the Modi government, which is proactive on social media.

Some parents I spoke to were clear - they would not risk their children’s life for an entrance exam. Said one single parent sobbing: “I have one son - the heavens will not fall if he does not take a test. I voted for Modiji why is he not understanding our plight?”

Doctors and education professionals say the contagion risk is real and postponing the exams is a sensible plan. Says one professor from IIT Delhi: “If Harvard is still to take a decision on opening the campus, then really we should not have this reckless bravado.”

Perhaps the only thing the Modi government would understand - these 18-year olds will be voters soon. And, they will remember what they had to go through.

Swati Chaturvedi, Special to Gulf News-1592296808900