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With mandatory face masks, staggered seating arrangements, JEE exams begin today

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Even after the widespread protests to postpone the JEE and NEET examinations from the students and parents across the nation, the examinations are set to begin at different centres.

The Joint Entrance Examinations (JEE) will be conducted between September 1 and 6 for admissions to different engineering colleges, while the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) will be conducted on September 13.

There were many petitions filed in the Supreme Court seeking the postponement of the exams due to the spread of coronavirus but the court had rejected the petitions saying, “the careers of students can’t be put in jeopardy.”

Students had no choice but to appear for the exams keeping in mind the safety measures as till last evening at 6 pm, over 12.75 lakh students had downloaded admit cards for NEET while 7.78 lakh students had downloaded the JEE.

According to the agency which is conducting these two exams, the National Testing Agency (NTA), there were around 16 lakh applicants for the NEET exams while 8.58 lakh applicants for the JEE exams.

The NTA said it has increased the number of exam centres to enable social distancing and had allowed a significant percentage of students their first choice of cities.

There are some Samaritans coming out in the crisis for the student as according to news agency PTI, a group of IIT alumni and students have launched a portal to provide transport facilities for candidates in need.

Opposition parties and many leaders had come out to raise their voices in support of the applicants demanding the postponement of the examinations.

Last week, six non-BJP ruled states approached the Supreme Court seeking a review of its order permitting the centre to allow the commencement of JEE and NEET examinations.

The six states which have approached the apex court regarding the postponement were West Bengal, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Chattisgarh, Punjab and Maharashtra. Each of the states is represented by a minister.

A day before, a meeting was called by the opposition leaders in regards with the JEE and NEET examinations by Congress President Sonia Gandhi and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

At the meeting, the Chief Ministers had expressed concern that states would be blamed and the Centre would put the onus of conducting the exams on them, including arranging transportation and accommodation for students.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was also vocal on the issue as he raised it many times to the government. Recently, he took a jibe at the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Mann Ki Baat by saying, “JEE-NEET aspirants wanted the PM do ‘Pariksha Pe Charcha’ but the PM did ‘Khilone Pe Charcha.”

He said PM is not addressing the grievances of students demanding postponement of JEE and NEET examinations.

Taking it to Twitter, Rahul Gandhi said, “JEE-NEET aspirants wanted the PM do ‘Pariksha Pe Charcha’ but the PM did ‘Khilone Pe Charcha’. #Mann_Ki_Nahi_Students_Ki_Baat”

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Lifestyle

‘CBSE Board Exams for classes 10 and 12 to be held after February 2021 with 30% syllabus cut’: Education Minister

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The impending Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) board exams for Classes 10 and 12 will not be held until February 2021 and a decision on when to start the exams will be taken by the government later, said Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank on Tuesday during a live interaction with teachers.

“The Classes 10 and 12 CBSE board exams 2021 will not be held in January and February. The exact exam schedule will be decided after February 2021,” said Pokhriyal.

“I received a lot of requests from various #students & #teachers to postpone @cbseindia29 board #exams for Class 10 & 12. Keeping the #COVID19 pandemic in mind & after various consultations, we have decided that #board exams will not be held in February,” he tweeted.

“Exact dates will be announced soon. Our govt is in favour of #students,” he said in another tweet.

Earlier, the Union Education Minister had interacted with students regarding entrance exams and online classes.

The main issues that are causing much unease among students, teachers, and parents are the dates of CBSE and state board exams, syllabus, and exam patterns.

Addressing the live webinar with teachers, Pokhriyal said that cancelling the exams and promoting students will result in “putting a stamp on these students” and these students might face trouble in getting jobs and admissions at higher education level in future.

He made it clear that the board exams will not be cancelled.

On the mode of 2021 board exams, Pokhriyal said that many CBSE schools are in rural areas and hence online examinations are not possible.

“The exam will be conducted offline as we need a laptop and stable internet and electricity for each student which is a challenge,” said the minister.

On the syllabus issue, Pokhiryal said there would be 30% syllabus cut while there would be 33% internal choice in the board exams.

“Dear Teachers, I will be addressing your concerns related to the upcoming board #exams at 4 PM today on my Twitter/FB pages. Looking forward to interacting with you all. #EducationMinisterGoesLive,” he had tweeted earlier.

As part of the central government initiative to conduct examinations on time amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the Union Education Minister has planned a three-way dialogue with the students, parents and teachers across the country.

Earlier, Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank had said, “Online education has become a big challenge for students who have not attended schools and colleges for the last nine months owing to Covid-19 pandemic. But the students should always be ready to turn this challenge into an opportunity.

“The biggest challenge is to study with stronger determination and will and declaration of board results on time so that a full academic year of students is not wasted.”

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Lifestyle

US President Donald Trump’s eldest son tests positive for coronavirus

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US President Donald Trump’s eldest son Donald Trump Jr has tested positive for Covid-19 and is quarantining without symptoms, the latest in a long list of infections among those with links to the White House.

“Don tested positive at the start of the week and has been quarantining out at his cabin since the result,” his spokesman said.

“He’s been completely asymptomatic so far and is following all medically recommended COVID-19 guidelines,” the spokesman said of the 42-year-old.

Trump Jr’s positive test follows infections for a string of others connected to the White House, including his father, who was hospitalized, the president’s wife Melania and Trump’s youngest son Barron.

Donald Jr’s girlfriend, former Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle, also tested positive in July.

Earlier Friday, Andrew Giuliani, a White House aide and son of the president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, announced he had tested positive.

Trump Jr is one of the most outspoken and aggressive defenders of his father, who is still refusing to recognize his defeat to Democrat Joe Biden in the November 3 presidential election.

In the days after the vote, Trump Jr called for his father to go to “total war” against what he calls electoral fraud despite no evidence to support the claim.

Like his father he has also consistently downplayed the pandemic, telling Fox News as the virus surged around the country last month that deaths from Covid-19 had fallen to “almost nothing.”

Trump’s administration has been heavily criticized for its response to the pandemic and for downplaying the dangers.

Many in the crowds at his pre-election rallies were often maskless and not abiding by social-distancing rules.

They were a sharp contrast with Biden’s drive-in rallies and his scrupulous mask-wearing.

On Monday, the president-elect expressed frustration over Trump’s refusal to cooperate on the White House transition process, saying “more people may die” of coronavirus without immediate coordination on fighting the pandemic.

With Trump refusing to concede defeat, Biden and his team have been unable to coordinate with government officials on crucial continuity of issues like national security, but also on emergencies like a distribution plan for Covid-19 vaccines to tens of millions of Americans.

Current US numbers — more than a quarter of a million deaths have been reported — have alarmed authorities enough to advise that people stay home for next week’s Thanksgiving holiday, when Americans usually travel to be with their families.

New York City has shut down schools for its 1.1 million students, while California will impose a 10:00 pm to 5:00 am curfew from Saturday.

There was however a new sign of hope on Friday as US biotech giant Pfizer and German partner BioNTech sought approval to roll out their coronavirus vaccine early.

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Health & Fitness

Low fitness may increase depression and anxiety: Study

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Researchers have found that people with low aerobic and muscular fitness are nearly twice as likely to experience depression.

Low fitness levels also predicted a 60 per cent greater chance of anxiety, over a seven-year follow-up, according to the study published in the journal BMC Medicine.

“Here we have provided further evidence of a relationship between physical and mental health, and that structured exercise aimed at improving different types of fitness is not only good for your physical health, but may also have mental health benefits,” said study author Aaron Kandola from University College London (UCL) in the UK.

The study involved 152,978 participants aged between 40 and 69 years.

Their baseline aerobic fitness at the start of the study period was tested by using a stationary bike the increasing resistance, while their muscular fitness was measured with a grip strength test.

They also completed a questionnaire gauging depression and anxiety symptoms.

Seven years later they were tested again for depression and anxiety symptoms, and the researchers found that high aerobic and muscular fitness at the start of the study was associated with better mental health seven years later.

People with the lowest combined aerobic and muscular fitness had 98 per cent higher odds of depression, 60 per cent higher odds of anxiety, and 81 per cent higher odds of having either one of the common mental health disorders, compared to those with high levels of overall fitness.

“Our findings suggest that encouraging people to exercise more could have extensive public health benefits, improving not only our physical health but our mental health too,” said study author Joseph Hayes from UCL.

Improving fitness through a combination of cardio exercise and strength and resistance training appears to be more beneficial than just focusing on aerobic or muscular fitness, according to the study.

“Other studies have found that just a few weeks of regular intensive exercise can make substantial improvements to aerobic and muscular fitness, so we are hopeful that it may not take much time to make a big difference to your risk of mental illness,” the authors wrote.

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