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NEET 2024: The Only Way To Restore Faith in the NTA Is Complete Transparency

NEET & controversy have never remained far from each other. This year, it is threatening to turn into a major scam.

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The National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) and controversy have never remained far from each other.

Since 2017, the Supreme Court has been approached by the stakeholders for one or the other issue with NEET every single year.

But this year’s problem is threatening to snowball into a major scam.

Already, political parties have thrown their hat in the ring, wanting to capitalise on the situation. The Indian Medical Association has come out openly in support of students who appeared for the examination.

NEET is one of the toughest exams in the country held annually and is conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA). This year approximately 24,00,000 students were competing for around 1,09,000 seats.

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Med Entrance Test Marred by Several Allegations

Approximately 60,000 of these seats are in government medical colleges and the rest in private medical colleges with far higher course fee.

The clamour is for the seats in government colleges because of the affordability factor. In the offline exam, students mark the answer on OMR sheets. For every correct answer, four marks are awarded and for every incorrect answer one mark is deducted.

This year, right from the word go, NEET was marred by allegations of paper leaks, anomalies in questions with varying answers because of discrepancies in two different NCERT books, discrepancies in actual marks obtained by the student and the final marks awarded as published in the declared result, and a complete lack of transparency in response to allegations of various irregularities by the NTA.

All hell broke loose because of the grace marks awarded to 1,563 odd students on account of loss of time in some centres – the reasons of delay not being very clear.

On the declaration of the result, which inexplicably was announced much before the due date issued earlier, the students were aghast to find that 67 students had scored the perfect 720 out of 720.

In the previous years, a maximum of 2-3 students had got the perfect score.

Consequently, on one rank, there are several students. The problem is also that even these 67 students would not get the colleges of their choice, even if they are all to apply for the top ranking All India Institute of Medical Sciences as there are only 47 general seats in the institute.

NTA's Vague Explanations Are Not Helping Anyone

People also smelt rat as six of these 67 toppers, who got the perfect score, were from the same examination centre in Haryana.

In the previous years, according to the trends, a student scoring 620 was assured of a berth in a government medical college. This year, however, their rank would be around 80,000, certainly not good enough for a government seat.

Further, some students have been awarded 719 and 718 marks, mathematically an impossible score as per the marking pattern.

Students and parents are on the streets, protesting what they call a 'big NTA scam'. The latter has not helped matters by giving vague explanations in a press briefing, on why marks have been awarded, the way they have.

Their response to how such high marks have been awarded – that the question papers were made easy this year – has not gone down well with students and their guardians.

Even several experts in the field and mentors at coaching centres have dismissed this as an excuse because, according to them, the question paper had the same degree of difficulty as the previous years.

Most importantly, the NTA has failed to provide any answer to why they had given grace marks arbitrarily to 1,563 students. Eyebrows have been raised as there is no provision to give grace marks as per the prospectus of NEET.

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What Is the Way out of This Cesspool?

Not surprisingly, multiple petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court of India.

In response to one such petition filed much before the results were announced, complaining to the apex court regarding the alleged paper leak, the SC said on Tuesday, 11 June, that the 'sanctity of the exam has been compromised' and issued a notice to the NTA and the government.

Another petition filed is scheduled to be heard soon, asking the Court to cancel the exam. However, so far, the apex court has not stayed the counselling.

The big question that arises here is what the way out of this cesspool is.

A solution has to be found quickly as the future of more than 1,00,000 students striving to be doctors hangs by a thread.

A committee to suggest and give recommendations has already been formed with a former UPSC chairman as its head. This is expected to give its recommendation in the coming week.

Early indications say that while re-examination is not completely ruled out, it may be practical and prudent to re-examine only those 1,563 students who have been given grace marks.

However, people's faith in the system can be restored only with absolute transparency by the NTA.

(Dr Ashwini Setya is Adjunct Professor in Gastroenterology at the ESIC Medical College in Faridabad, and Senior Consultant with Medanta Institute of Digestive & Hepatobiliary Sciences in New Delhi. Dr Setya is also an advisor and consultant in Medical Law and Ethics. This is an opinion piece, and the views expressed are the author's own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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