The July 2021 CA Exams have created a lot of buzz in the CA Community primarily due to various student concerns that are left unaddressed by the concerned authorities. In this regard, a PIL was filed on behalf of 987 students across 20 states and 3 UTs by Advocate Anubha Shrivastava Sahai - President India Wide Parents Association and Child Rights Activist.
In an exclusive interaction with CAclubindia, Adv. Anubha lays down various student concerns, the relief measures that they are seeking and talks about solutions that can be implemented in the interest of the students.
While talking about Student Concerns, she said
"The major concern is the vaccination point, which we have taken up in our PIL. The students are also demanding that they must be vaccinated before ICAI conducts any exam in physical mode. These exams can turn into a super spreader and that is why we are demanding vaccination drives for students also."
Most of the CA students who are going to appear for the upcoming exams have either been partially vaccinated or not vaccinated at all. Amidst a shortage of vaccines, not everyone in the age group of 18-30 who is also appearing for the ICAI exam has been able to get themselves vaccinated. This poses a huge risk of these exams becoming a super spreader for COVID-19. With new mutants coming every other day, the risk is only increasing day by day.
The second concern that has been aptly pointed by her is
"An opt-out option if the Institute conducts the exam without going ahead with the vaccination, which they should, we are not saying that exams should be cancelled, we are saying that they must be conducted with all the safety protocols. Now, with regards to the opt-out option, what we are requesting is that the students be given a chance to opt-out for whatsoever reason (medical or non-medical like accommodation or transport-related), or anything related to COVID."
She added that the situation is worse this year compared to last year, so students must be given an opt-out option.
The next thing that the students are requesting, as mentioned by Adv. Anubha is that an alternate attempt should be given as an exam that should be held before the November cycle without merging both the exam cycles like they did last year.
Then she discussed another concern which is an extension of old course students, i.e., the students who have their last attempt. She believes that these students deserve this extension as they too are dealing with the same pandemic as the whole country. They are also going through the same problems whether it’s COVID related or not.
To read more about the concerns raised by students, click here.
Apart from the students’ concerns mentioned above, the PIL is also demanding that the exams must be conducted in a safer environment for which the ICAI should arrange for more examination centres. She added that instead of merging several centres in one which leads to the gathering of a large number of students in a single place, the ICAI must set up more centres to avoid the crowd and thus the further risk of spreading the virus.
Along with the vaccination drive for students, she mentioned that the PIL also demands RT-PCR tests to be done and made mandatory for students appearing for the exam before the date of the exam.
She further adds, "Now, apart from that, we are also requesting transportation and accommodation facilities. If it is possible, then transportation facilities should also be provided to the students and an e-pass should be released because some students complained to me recently, that even the last year, the Institute told them that your admit card will be treated as an e-pass, but then many students could not travel in public transport because in Mumbai, Delhi and other cities also, the government announced that the public transport will not be available due to the lockdown and to maintain social distancing."
One more thing that the PIL requests, is that the exams must be declared on time, i.e., according to the PIL, they must be declared either before the May cycle or the next exam.
She continued by saying, "Apart from that, we are also requesting that the exam should be conducted in a standard manner. A standard manner in the sense, if they plan, they can conduct it for foundation, later on, maybe for, IPCC old course and new course, and then for, Final separately. So let the Institute give priority to the last attempts and the final course students because they have to clear their exam. They are the ones who have to get a degree and then move ahead. Then, later on, they can hold the exam for intermediate and then afterwards, within a gap of five days or so, they can hold the exam for the foundation. So these are some of the major demands which we have for which we have moved the PIL before the honourable Supreme Court, and I hope that the Institute will consider ".
During our conversation about the conditional Opt Out that has been given by ICAI Adv. Anubha says that "if students are not able to provide an RT-PCR report according to the guidelines that the ICAI has set out for opt-out option, then it is very much possible that the students may appear for the exam without even knowing that they or their family members have covid which will turn out to be a huge risk for everyone and will turn into a super spreader for covid. Temperature or fever check before the exam is not enough to ensure everyone’s safety. Apart from this, the guidelines do not give an option to anyone else to opt out which means that even if anyone is suffering from post covid complications or anything unrelated to covid which is still stressful in a pandemic situation, they would not be able to opt-out and might lose their opportunity to sit for the exam which is highly unfair according to her."
Even in the representation letter which was signed by 6000 students, they are also demanding the same things with regards to the opt-out option, that it be made available to all the students, alternate attempt before November, no merging of both the cycles and an extension for students who have their last attempt.
Furthermore, she added that "When an Institute is holding an exam, they should ensure that each and every student should be able to appear for the exam in a comfortable manner. You don't come up with a notification that yes, we are conducting exams and these are the examination centres that we are changing. What happened in November, students told me that even one day before their exam Institute had to change the centre. Getting your centre changed just one day before an exam 30-40 kilometres away, if public transport is not available, how these students are going to travel, or in case a student has not received the message regarding the change in centre, it creates further problems. If that student does not get the message that their centre is going to be changed tomorrow from this centre to that centre, then he will lose the opportunity. So that also should be ensured by the Institute that if you are not able to hold the exam in all the centres, then you defer it because we are in a pandemic".
She concluded by saying that, "if possible, we are requesting that the exam should be deferred till they get enough centres and permission from all the states because many states are still under lockdown and also, you vaccinate and then you conduct the exams then there will be no problem at all. In other cities also, if you are vaccinated, they're permitting you. So at least a deferment till all these arrangements are in place. That is what we are requesting and exam centres should not be changed just a day or two days before the exam. Furthermore, if exams are still being conducted, then Opt Out Option should be given to all irrespective of whether they have covid or not "
While summarizing Adv. Anubha focused mainly on how crucial it is
- To make sure that the students are vaccinated before they are asked to sit for exams, that is her main concern.
- Opt-out option must be available to all the students.
- Exam cycles must not be merged. Instead, an additional exam cycle must be there for students who have opted out.
- A dialogue with students must happen to understand their concerns and then the institute must take a decision about the exams accordingly.
This interview was taken by Aishna Kukreja, Assistant Editor - CAclubindia
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