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  • Friday, 19 July, 2024
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Students Fear An Uncertain Future As NEET Controversy Rages

According to reports, First Information Reports (FIRs) have been filed in at least three different locations – Bihar, Gujarat and Delhi. According to the petitioners, not only was the NEET UG 2024 question paper leaked, but answers were also provided to students a night before, and that the accused took Rs 10 lakh to write answers for candidates.

Eighteen-year-old Roshani is tense, as her future has become more uncertain in the past few months, ever since the controversies over the National Eligibility-Cum-Entrance Test (NEET) surfaced.
A resident of Delhi’s Kasturba Nagar, Roshani always wanted to become a doctor. However, that dream now seems like a mirage. 
The controversy over this year’s qualifying examination to medical colleges, the National Eligibility-Cum-Entrance Test (NEET), has started a blame game within the political parties.
While the National Testing Agency (NTA) has reversed the grace marks of more than 1,500 candidates and given them the option of a re-test, the Supreme Court on Friday issued notice to the Union government on a plea for seeking CBI probe into the paper leak.
 Speaking to The Media, Roshani, who sat for the NEET exams this year said that the controversy has made her and many students doubt the whole system.
“Although I could not clear the examinations, a lot of my friends are having trouble with their results. Their result numbers have changed a couple of times they have gone and checked the website,” Roshani said.
According to reports, First Information Reports (FIRs) have been filed in at least three different locations – Bihar, Gujarat and Delhi. According to the petitioners, not only was the NEET UG 2024 question paper leaked, but answers were also provided to students a night before, and that the accused took Rs 10 lakh to write answers for candidates.
Sixty-three cases of students using unfair means were reported in NEET-UG this year. The NTA officials said that out of 63 cases, 23 have been debarred for varying periods.
 They, however, maintained that the sanctity of the examinations has not been compromised. “The result of the remaining 40 candidates who were found using unfair means have been withheld,” NTA Director General Subodh Kumar Singh said.
The Supreme Court on Friday, however, declined to halt the admissions counselling process. If any of the 1,563 candidates choose not to participate in the retest, their previous marks, excluding the grace marks, will be considered for result purposes. 
The re-test results will be declared on June 30, and the centre said the counselling for admission in the MBBS, BDS, and other courses will start on July 6. 
Roshani whose house was demolished, among many others, last year by the DDA authorities. Hundreds of jhuggis and houses were demolished by the authorities last year due to G20. Officials claimed the houses to be illegal, but residents said they had paperwork to prove otherwise.
“I am now thinking whether I should continue my preparations for NEET or leave it,” she said. 
The NTA, which is an autonomous agency under the Department of Higher Education of the Ministry of Education, is under criticism amid allegations of irregularities and inflation of marks in the crucial medical entrance exam. 
The agency had formed a high-powered panel to examine the issue of grant of compensatory/grace marks to 1,563 candidates. Later, a decision was taken to cancel the grace marks awarded to these students, who would be given the option to appear for a re-test. 
Former Telangana minister and Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) leader K.T. Rama Rao was among those ‘X’ users whose post elicited a response from the testing agency. 
“I am sure the NDA Government has many challenges as they form a new Govt. But the one that deserves highest priority is the most sensitive issue about the future of millions of students; the Fiasco of #NEET2024result,” he posted Saturday. 
To this, the agency replied, “NTA clarifies that due to compensatory marks, two candidates happened to secure 718,719 marks.”
 The Supreme Court has issued notices to private parties on a plea of the National Testing Agency seeking the transfer of cases pending in various High Courts. 
The NTA, meanwhile, said it wanted to withdraw three other petitions, which were seeking the transfer of cases from HCs to the top court, as they pertained to the grant of grace marks to 1,563 candidates on account of loss of time during the examination on May 5. 
The counsel for the NTA said the issue has been settled and that he will be intimating the high court about the decision to cancel the compensatory marks given to 1,536 candidates and the consequential June 13 order of the top court.
 Students from at least six centres in Meghalaya, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Surat and Chandigarh had complained about the loss of time during the exams. Many students alleged they did not get the full time to write the exam. 
Roshani said that when they were giving the exam, the students faced the same issue. “But there is usually a little chaos during entrance exams, so we did not pay attention. The exam started a bit late for us,” she said. 
Meanwhile, Aatina Hussain, 17 who is also preparing for NEET and sat for the exams said that there was no controversy or scams in the previous years, hence it is a shock to see the current situation. 
“We are hearing something like this for the first time. There were many issues that people have been talking about the marks, and the time issue. Even at our centre, the exam started 10-15 minutes late and that was confusing,” Hussain said. 
Hussain said that previously the cut off has been really low, hence it was shocking to see some students getting more that 700 marks. “It is not possible that six students from the same centre are getting the same high marks.
 “NEET has always been clear about their exams as far as I know. While we hear scams about other exams, NEET was never like this. But with this, we are all just confused,” she added. 
Meanwhile, the Indian Doctors for Peace and Development (IDPD) has demanded a high level investigation into the scam in the NEET examination for entrance into medical courses. 
“The irregularities in the conduct of NEET has put the careers of a large number of students in Jeopardy. It should be found out whether there was leakage of papers and at whose behest? It is difficult to believe that many Marks Sheets were torn. This resulted in non-declaration or delay in the results,” IDPD said in a statement. 
Dr Arun Mitra, President IDPD said that such situations put the students in extreme mental stress. Many students make more than one attempt, they are even more affected under such situations. The students at this tender age can even resort to extreme steps under the stressful conditions. 
Dr Mitra added that the National Testing Agency (NTA) should be held accountable and the concerned persons should be taken to task. Affected students should be given relief like giving grace marks and re-examination for the needy. In case of re-examination the expenditure should be borne by the NTA. 
The IDPD also said that the admissions to the higher education courses have not been streamlined even after so many years. “Several coaching centres have come up for the students appearing in the NEET and for various other disciplines. 
“These coaching centres are charging exorbitantly from the students. Those from low socio-economic status are unable to afford. It has been found that the number of students from rural backgrounds has come down. 
“Also, the schools encourage the students to join the coaching centres and show dummy attendance in their schools. As a result, the purpose of education to build citizens with a broad social outlook and doctors with empathy is neglected,” it said. 
Roshani’s mother, the only earning member in the family said, “I wanted to join Aakash for coaching but it was so expensive that I decided otherwise. After my home was demolished it became difficult for us, so I did not want to burden my mother.” 
Roshani joined a nearby small coaching centre that charged her Rs. 4500. “At Aaksh the fee was Rs. 1,00,000. How will students like me, who come from weak economic backgrounds give so much money? There is also so much competition and limited seats, how are we supposed to compete,” she said. 
Dr Shakeel Ur Rahman, General Secretary of the IDPD said that it is important that the students from low economic status should be supported by the government.
 “Fees in the private colleges should be capped and made transparent including for the management quota seats. The clause of charging government level fees in the private colleges for 50% seats should be implemented effectively. Government should decide the fees for other seats. Students from the rural background should be given extra marks in admissions,” he said. 
Roshani said that her mother is now discouraging her from continuing this. “How much money will we waste? My mother also said that the rich buy management seats, so there is no point in even giving the exams,” she added.
 The examination was held on May 5 across 4,750 centres and around 24 lakh candidates took it. The results were expected to be declared on June 14 but were announced on June 4, apparently because the evaluation of the answer sheets got completed earlier.
 The allegations have led to protests in several cities and filing of cases in seven high courts as also the Supreme Court. Scores of students protested in Delhi on June 10 seeking a probe into alleged irregularities. 
As many as 67 students scored a perfect 720, unprecedented in the NTA's history. Six from a centre in Haryana's Faridabad figured in the list, raising suspicions about irregularities. It has been alleged that grace marks contributed to 67 students sharing the top rank.
 As the controversy over the NEET examinations continues, political parties have started a blame game. 
The Maharashtra Congress has demanded a judicial probe to find out what exactly led to the irregularities in the examination. 
“The head of NTA which conducted the NEET exam, and which was facing allegations of irregularities, was tasked with the job of conducting an investigation… How can anyone call the investigation fair and impartial?” asked Congress spokesperson Gopaldada Tiwari in a press release. 
When the NEET scam came to light, the Congress said the Centre appointed former director of UPSC Prof Pradeepkumar Joshi to investigate the allegations of irregularities in the conduct of the examination, Tiwari said. 
“Who is Pradeepkumar Joshi? He is the same person who heads the National Testing Agency which conducted the NEET exam. Just imagine, there are allegations against NTA and its own head conducts the probe. How can he be allowed to conduct a probe against an organisation which he heads?” Tiwari asked. 
“These candidates have now been allowed to sit for a retest on June 23… This is shocking as in Haryana it has come to light that seven students have got the highest common marks. Besides, videos have gone viral of private coaching classes enticing students to pay lakhs and get question papers. 
“This is highly condemnable. The Supreme Court should take suo motu action in the matter and initiate a judicial probe and should itself monitor the probe,” Tiwari said. 
Tiwari said it was Congress leader Rahul Gandhi who raised the issue of irregularities in the NEET exam. “Had it not been for the Congress, this issue would have been covered up by the Centre,” he said. 
Meanwhile, Union education minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Thursday accused the Congress of playing with the future of the country for its petty politics after the grand old party alleged corruption and rigging in the NEET-UG exam.
 Responding to criticism from Congress, Pradhan said, “...No concrete evidence of any scam, corruption or paper leak related to NEET exam has come to light...Doing politics over the future of students is an old habit of Congress. Instead of politicising this, Congress should contribute towards the development of India…
” He also said that the issues will be addressed with fairness and equity to assure the students. “Central govt. is committed to protect the interests of NEET examinees. I want to assure the students that all their concerns will be addressed with fairness and equity. 
“No student will be at a disadvantage and no child’s career will be at jeopardy. Facts related to NEET examination are in cognisance of Hon’ble Supreme Court. Central govt. will take all necessary actions for the well-being of students as per the directions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court. Counselling process of NEET will be underway soon and it is of utmost importance to move ahead in this direction without any confusion,” he posted on X. 
Around 24 lakh students appeared for the NEET exam and around 13 lakh students qualified. Pradhan also said that around 4,500 centres are there for the exams conducted in 13 languages. 
“This time when the exam was held, in 6 centres out of 4500 centres, the wrong question papers were sent mistakenly. The correct question paper was later provided but this took a little bit of time. Around 1,563 students were giving the exams in these centres and had to face time loss,” he added.


 Pradhan also said that action will be taken against those who are responsible for creating problems.

“On the Supreme Court's standing order says that instead of re-examination, grace marks are given. NTA constituted an expert committee and applied the grace mark rule. Later it was found that some students got 100% marks. After this, some people went to the Court. 


“Supreme Court gave a verdict that 1,563 students will be given the option to either reappear in the NEET exam or accept the original marks (without grace marks). I accept the verdict of the Supreme Court. The GoI has taken this issue seriously.


 “Over 50 lakh students appear for NEET, JEE and CUET exams that are conducted by NTA. Action will be taken on the people responsible for creating problems in the examination...,” he added. 


Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge also launched an attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the alleged irregularities in the NEET saying that the future of 24 lakh students who appeared in the NEET-UG 2024 exam is at stake due to the actions of the Modi government.
 Meanwhile, nation-wide protests are taking place regarding the scam with students demanding strict investigation into the matter. 
In West Bengal, students held protests alleging irregularities in the medical entrance exam. The TMC, while extending solidarity to students, called for a Supreme Court-monitored investigation into the matter. 


The TMC’s spokesperson Santanu Sen alleged that the BJP-led government at the Centre was playing with the future of students.
 “This is one of the biggest scams of the BJP-led central government. The BJP is playing with the future of lakhs of students. We demand a Supreme Court-monitored investigation into this entire NEET-UG scandal, which has affected around 24 lakh students," said Sen, who is also a doctor. 


Protests also took place in Delhi as student unions demanded the Central government to give an answer on the alleged scam. 
The NTA conducts the NEET-UG examination for admissions to MBBS, BDS, AYUSH, and other courses related to government and private institutions nationwide. NIKITA JAIN

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