India: COVID-19 lockdown forces father to ride 500km to take son for JEE exams

Patna: A poor farmer from Bihar rode 500km on his motorbike with his son not for a scenic road trip but to ensure the latter would appear on time at the coveted Joint Entrance Examination (Main) being conducted by the National Testing Agency.

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Clad in a dhoti and kurta, Khublal Pandit rode for 48 hours from Bettiah town in Bihar’s West Champaran district to Hazaribagh town in Jharkhand, negotiating potholed roads, rough terrains and COVID-19 risks.

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He elected to travel by motorbike as all other modes of transport were suspended between the two states due to the virus. He was too poor to hire a car.

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“Currently, there is just no public transport between Bihar and Jharkhand due to COVID-19 outbreak. And, when I tried to hire a taxi, they charged Rs30,000 for a round trip. Since I couldn’t afford to hire the car, I decided to cover this long distance on bike,” Khublal said.

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They set off on ardous journey on August 31 evening and reached the exam centre on August 2. “I am happy that my son was able to appear at the exam lest his year-long effort would have gone to waste,” he exclaimed.

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Similar determination was shown by another Bihar villager who drove his daughter for some 300km on his bike to carry her to the exam centre at Ranchi, capital of Jharkhand. His daughter had opted for this centre in Ranchi since there was no COVID-19 fear at the time when she filled up the registration form.

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Petition rejected

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With train and bus services remaining suspended, they set off on journey from Bihar’s Nalanda district and finally reached Ranchi, covering some 300km in 12 hours.

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Meanwhile, the Supreme Court on Friday rejected a review petition by the ministers of six non-BJP-ruled states, seeking review of its August 17 order allowing conduct of NEET-UG and JEE (Mains) exams. The ministers from Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand wanted deferment of the examination to save over 2.5 million students appearing at these two tests from serious health risks given the rising coronavirus and infections and death from the disease.

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COVID-19 has claimed nearly 70,000 lives in India with more than 1,000 fatalities being reported for the fourth straight day on Saturday. According to latest information, country’s total cases breached the 4 million-mark with more than 86,000 new cases being reported in the past 24 hours.

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