Commentary

NEET 2024: Students' Interests Not Compromised, Coaching Centres Targeting The Exam Are Agents Of Chaos

Tejasvi Surya

Jun 14, 2024, 04:41 PM | Updated 04:45 PM IST

Students check NEET medical entrance exam results. (Representative Image) Raj K Raj/Hindustan Times via GettyImages)
Students check NEET medical entrance exam results. (Representative Image) Raj K Raj/Hindustan Times via GettyImages)
  • Using students for vested interests is a reprehensible agenda and should be condemned.
  • Indian culture views doctors as embodiments of God. The path to being a doctor hinges on the NEET (UG) exam. This year, the highly competitive NEET (UG) 2024 exam was conducted by NTA in 72 more cities than last year and at more centres with increased accessibility for candidates, accommodating them in their home district.

    Despite two years of in-person learning post-COVID-19, the duration of the exam continued to be 3 hours and 20 minutes, as it was during COVID-19, ensuring that all students could attempt the exam without any hassle and with effective preparation.

    However, the exam was politicised for various other unfounded reasons and propaganda was led by the opposition against the exam. Fake videos were circulated online with allegations of discrepancies in marks. Malafide was suspected in the decision of NTA to announce the results ten days before the scheduled date.

    A pattern of distribution of the top 100 candidates concentrated in a particular region also prompted suspicions of paper-solver gangs impersonating examinees. Upon closer examination, it was found that these top 100 candidates were spread across 89 centres located in 55 cities of 17 states/UTs. Unfortunately, these allegations caused unnecessary anxiety among students and parents.

    Two major concerns rocked the headlines — grace marks being awarded to 1563 students who faced loss of time, and bonus marks being awarded to students as per the prescribed policy which led to an increase in the number of students who scored a perfect 720.

    1,563 candidates who had experienced time loss during the exam on 5 May, were awarded compensatory grace marks based on the recommendation of the Grievance Redressal Committee relying upon a judgment of the Supreme Court in Disha Panchal vs. Union of India and others.

    However, considering the interests of all students, NTA decided to withdraw the same and permitted these students to attempt a re-exam. The same was done in adherence to the orders passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court considering all material on record. Furthermore, among the 67 students who scored a perfect 720, only 6 candidates received the compensatory grace marks.

    Allegations were made regarding question paper leaks at the Sawai Madhopur centre in Rajasthan. The NTA stated that there were no paper leaks and that the first copy of the question paper circulating online appeared at 4:25 pm, well after the exam had commenced.

    Addressing the bonus marks, the NTA stated that as a result of ambiguity between the old and new NCERT textbooks, the answer key to a Physics question was updated. Bonus marks were awarded per the policy mentioned in the information bulletin of the NEET (UG) - 2024, i.e., “If more than one option is found to be correct then four marks (+4) will be awarded to only those who have marked any of the correct options.”

    All other allegations of cheating and impersonation are being strictly dealt with by the NTA and legal action has been initiated in such cases either by the NTA or the concerned state police.

    An increase in the number of NEET aspirants with approximately 3 lakh more candidates appearing in NEET(UG) 2024 compared to 2023 led to an upsurge in competition. Furthermore, there exists no upper-age limit or bar on the number of attempts, resulting in experienced candidates scoring higher marks in their subsequent attempts. Amidst this is a key factor — a reduction in the syllabus by 15 per cent. To enhance the performance of candidates, the NEET (UG) syllabus was slashed, giving candidates more room for preparation.

    Building upon such unsubstantiated assertions and false allegations, a coaching centre based in Kozhikode, Kerala filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the NEET (UG) 2024 results. The claims made by the coaching centre can be considered unfounded, for, the concerns raised have already been addressed and falsified by the NTA. This necessitates the need to be vigilant against rumours and hearsay.

    In recent years, there has been an increasing awareness of coaching centers exploiting students. These institutes aggressively promote their services, often exploiting the anxiety of aspirants who perceive competitive exams as challenging. Simplifying the exam processes threatens the lucrative business model of coaching institutes.

    In response to allegations of intentionally aligning NTA results with the Indian General Election results, the NTA clarified its rationale. The result was announced 10 days in advance to expedite the counselling and admission processes. Despite calling for a retest of 1563 candidates, the Hon’ble Supreme Court did not stay the counseling process.

    To ensure the integrity of competitive exams, PM Shri Narendra Modi-led government enacted the Stringent Public Examination (Prevention of Unfair Means) Act, in February 2024. The Act heavily cracks down on facilitators of unfair means in public examinations. The NDA government is strongly committed to conducting fair public examinations free from corruption, intimidation, and unlawful interference, unlike opposition-ruled states where PSC exams were marred with large-scale corruption and cheating.

    With multiple narratives being fanned, students are encouraged to exercise caution when encountering information on social media and avoid undue stress and anxiety.

    Exploiting young students as political fodder is a perverse agenda of miscreants and must be abhorred. The NTA has also released an official statement consisting of Frequently Asked Questions which can be accessed here.

    (The author is a Member of Parliament representing Bengaluru South in the Lok Sabha. He tweets at @Tejasvi_Surya)


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