Now what for UGC NEET, NET aspirants in Kerala?

TNIE speaks to NEET and NET candidates and experts about the recent controversies surrounding these tests
A scene from an SFI protest march to the AG’s office against the irregularities in the NEET examination
A scene from an SFI protest march to the AG’s office against the irregularities in the NEET examination Photo | Vincent Pulickal

KOCHI: Close on the heels of the controversies over NEET-UG 2024 came another shocking news. The UGC NET, held on June 18, was cancelled a day later with the UGC claiming the test’s “integrity was compromised.”  

The unpleasant developments have jeopardised the future of the nearly 9 lakh teaching and research aspirants who appeared for the NET, and the around 25 lakh candidates who attempted NEET on May 5.

A scene from an SFI protest march to the AG’s office against the irregularities in the NEET examination
CBI registers FIR, initiates probe into UGC-NET paper leak case

Understandably, the students, who had burnt the candle at both ends, are upset. While NEET has been mired in controversy over alleged awarding of grace marks and paper leak, the NET was cancelled as authorities said reports from agencies hinted at anomalies.

A scene from an SFI protest march to the AG’s office against the irregularities in the NEET examination
Neet not neat, mired in mess

Now, protests against the National Testing Agency, which conducted both tests, are rocking the nation. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, too, raised the issue on X (formerly Twitter), and urged the Centre to act immediately and resolve the crisis, which, he said, revealed the “repeated incompetence” of the NTA.

“Efforts of a lot of candidates have gone down the drain. They should get justice,” says Sreenand Sharmil, who scored 720 in NEET this year. Several others, who TNIE spoke to, echoed similar sentiments.

Annapoorna V Kartha, Kochi

This shows how undervalued students’ efforts are in our country, which is very disheartening. For a nation that aims to become a global superpower, ignoring the youth and perhaps even punishing them for aspiring for a better future, does not augur well. The ease with which NTA announced the cancellation and the relative nonchalance of the political class shows how disconnected today’s polity is from the sentiments of the youth.

Kesiya Ann Babu, Kochi 

A standalone exam being the admission criterion for a PhD amplifies the existing fierce competition. Now, only those who can afford coaching have the luxury of pursuing higher education. With NEP in place, even students who have completed four years of bachelor’s degree can apply for a PhD. Without an MPhil course that provides insight into how research would be, it seems like higher education in academia is going downhill. Then comes the cancellation of the June NET exam.

Reena Mathew, Thiruvananthapuram 

For the NTA’s inefficiency in conducting the test, the candidates have to pay the price. If there is no provision for changing exam centres for the re-examination, I won’t be able to attend it. The registration fee is Rs1,150, which is not a small amount for me.

Joseph Thankachan, Kochi 

The mental stress that comes with this level of mismanagement is nothing less than a tragedy. I’ve been readying for the NET exam and quit my job to focus entirely on studying because I wanted to join for PhD. Unfortunately, the exam has been cancelled. Now, I am thinking whether to prepare again or join my new job.

Gowri Krishna, Thiruvananthapuram

I was one among a small faction of people who were happy with the pen-and-paper format. I was content with the test. But my hopes were shattered when  NET was cancelled, and I’m unmotivated to take the test again. NTA is playing with our future and the integrity of the exam is now at stake.

Pooja Syam, KSU vice-president, Kerala University Campus

Rumours were spread that the question papers got leaked days before the exam. No clarification was provided by NTA by then. But then why make all these students write the exam and then cancel it?

Jeevak A, Kochi

I am currently doing my post-graduation and had to prepare for NET while my university exams were going on. Most universities now accept PhD scholars through NET and when such an error happens in a critical examination like this, it is extremely disheartening for an aspirant like me.

Adithya V, University Union Councillor (SFI), MG University Campus

The cancellation caused many difficulties, as many had travelled long distances to the centres. The question paper leak is the fault of NTA, as it was a pen-paper test this year. NTA is supposed to ensure the failproof conduct of exams like UGC-NET and NEET. 

Abhinav K P, Kannur, ABVP state joint secretary

Such incidents happens due to NTA’s carelessness. The pen-paper test increased the procedural difficulty. We demand the removal of the NTA chairman. We have started our protests against the issue.

Rajan Gurukal, vice-chairman, Kerala State Higher Education Council

The leak happened from within the NAT. Right from the setting of the question papers to the printing press, it could have leaked from anywhere. To prevent a repeat, NTA needs to use digital technology. They should set an exhaustive question bank from which the machine can pick and choose questions right at the time of the examination. The software is already there and institutions all over the world are using it.

Shraddha Rajeev, Kochi

It is my dream to become a doctor. On June 4, NEET results were declared, and then, news started spreading about the scams. A lot of questions remain in our minds — why were the NEET results declared on the same day as the election results? Why were grace marks given? It has been two weeks since the result declaration yet no decision has been made. Future of us aspirants are at stake here.

Abhinav Sunil Prasad, Kozhikode

I scored 720 and secured rank 1. Now, if there is a re-test, I have to prepare again that too, in a short duration. I believe it is better to have a re-evaluation of marks rather than a retest because lakhs of students like me have worked hard and over the past few months have lost touch with the syllabus.

Binyamin Binu Varghese, Bahrain

Many stories are coming about papers being leaked and students getting grace marks close to 100. I know many students who prepared for the exams while suffering poverty. Their dreams are in shambles right now. NTA has failed and now lakhs are facing the consequences. We should get justice.

Sivani Nalambrone, Kannur

The NEET scam is devastating because students like us sacrificed our mental and physical health to prepare. This scandal shatters our tryst in the system. It’s not just about studying hard anymore, we also have to worry about the fraud. This added stress is unfair and demoralising. The impact on our future is profound.

Lakshmi Priya V, Kochi

I have been going through a rollercoaster ride since the day I started preparing for NEET. But I did my part and attended the exam. All the replies from the authorities seem like fudging. I hope all the chaos gets over soon and that the deserving people get justice.

Lakshmi Sankar J, Kochi

I took a gap year and prepared for NEET. This year it was an easy exam. That’s why though we scored good marks, our ranks went down. However, the recent NTA scam is highly concerning, and it shows the flaws that this system has. It is unfair to ask us to retake the exam, many of us cannot afford to do so.

Compiled by: Aliya Siya A S, Keshav R Nair, Sanjana Pradeep, Parvathy S Nair, Aswin Asok Kumar, Mary Thomas

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