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Dawn of a new normal

Dawn of a new normal

As lockdown 4.0 kicked in, CBSE announced the schedule for the residual board examinations. The new schedule aims to conduct both, pending class XII board exams as well as Class X board exams of northeast Delhi that were interrupted by the riots, in a span of fifteen days from July 1-15. The announcement allays worries of students as well as their parents. Emphasis has been laid the earliest possible schedule for board examinations also because they serve as a gateway to higher studies — senior secondary for Class X and graduate courses for Class XII. In fact, the class XII board examinations serve as a precursor to the various competitive examinations for admission into different courses in a multitude of varsities. Board examinations mark the starting point of a string of academically significant events across the Summer. The impact of the pandemic can be felt not just in the delay of examinations but the general psyche amongst people, especially students that are expected to now prepare and give the examinations in July before hustling for admissions in colleges on merit or through competitive exams. While students prepare for exams and the country inches towards normalcy, the fear of Coronavirus remains. Lockdown 4.0 may have significantly relaxed curbs, facilitating economic activity, but it also underlines the varying risk of an exponential rise in cases. It has been argued that India is yet to hit its peak, something that the developed nations are well past. Rescheduling of exams is first on the long list of events that are required to be done in the near future depending on how virus map and our response to it. It has to be taken into account that these dates by CBSE depend on the assumption that things will hereafter be largely under control. In case a steep spike is observed in cases, there may be alterations in the proposed schedule. At this point, a lot is riding on how the virus moves in a cautioned country slowly returning to normalcy. The lockdown has provided us with two crucial inputs for our fight against the pandemic. First is the headstart given to our health care infrastructure that would be better equipped to deal with rising cases in terms of equipment and drawn protocols. Second is the effective sub-conscious awareness in society to take precautions as a less understood and dangerous virus exists around us. Both these inputs will play a crucial role in our lives hereafter until a successful vaccine is synthesised and widely available.

Along with the schedule, CBSE also released safety instructions for students. It has directed students to carry their own hand sanitizers in transparent bottles, wear masks and practice social distancing while appearing for the board examinations. The said instructions are nothing but novel norms that not just us but rather the whole world would be diligently observing now. Through these instructions, CBSE has taken the lead in defining the way other pending examinations — JEE, NEET, UPSC-CSE, et al — would be conducted, given the situation remains under control. An understanding between the Centre and states exist that cases will rise in the fourth phase of the lockdown but the medical infrastructure has been tweaked to combat the situation. If the caseload overwhelms the medical infrastructure of a district or state, restrictions would have to be immediately imposed. So a wide surveillance regime wherein the state governments continuously monitor districts' status and the Central government, in turn, monitors states' performance has been placed to effectively overcome the pandemic. There is no doubt that the latter half of 2020 would define a new normal for humankind. One can already see football being played in empty stadiums and people thronging streets wearing masks and maintaining social distance. Compared to the beginning of this year, the situation resembles a dystopian shift. However, human efforts are underway to facilitate a return to true normal, ending the crisis that none of us can ever forget.

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