Picked up, carried in by four people: Wheelchair user students recall horror experiences at NTA entrance exams during COVID

Parvathi Benu

Srishti Pandey would consider herself lucky if she doesn't contract COVID in the next few days. A recent Delhi University graduate, this 21-year-old had appeared for two NTA-conducted entrances for MA Psychology and MA Applied Psychology courses on September 7 and 10, respectively. While she was aware of the risks of appearing for an entrance exam during a pandemic, her problem stands out distinctly from many others.

Srishti is a wheelchair user with a locomotive disability, who was in for the rudest shock of her life on both of these days. Despite mentioning in the entrance form that she had a disability and producing a disability certificate, the centres allotted to her did not have ramps for her to enter the building. "In both these cases, I had to be picked up by groups of four people. This is not advisable, especially when we have strict COVID protocols in place. But this was the only possible option," she says. "Different people had touched me and my wheelchair. Even though they had masks and gloves on, I was not quite comfortable. This obviously affected my state of mind while writing these examinations," she says. Srishti says that since the beginning of the lockdown, she has stepped out of her house only twice — and even those were for her checkups.

Kavya Mukhija, a Jaipurite listens to this in agreement. Kavya, who is also 21, also uses a wheelchair to move around and had appeared for the MA Applied Psychology entrance exam on the same day, in Jaipur. The situation in her centre wasn't any different from Srishti's. "The centre did have a ramp, but it was as steep as a rocket. The very sight of it frightened us," she says. As a result of this, Kavya, along with her wheelchair hand to be lifted to be taken to a classroom that was in the basement of the building. "I was really scared. No COVID protocols were followed there. Most of the students in my class did not wear masks properly," she recalls.

While she was carried to the classroom, she observed another disabled student carried by his father down another flight of stairs. "The very sight scared me. The stairs were slippery and it was raining," she says. "What was the point of mentioning our disability and providing proofs if they couldn't ensure accessibility," she asks.

No suicide note was found, say police.

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