Won't tolerate malpractice, accountability in NTA to be fixed if lapses found: Union Education Minister on NEET

The minister's comments came as the Congress intensified its attack on the government over the NEET-UG exam issue and questioned PM Modi's silence on the matter.
Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan
Union Education Minister Dharmendra PradhanFile - Express

NEW DELHI: The government will not tolerate any malpractice or irregularities in the conduct of exams and accountability of the National Testing Agency will be fixed if lapses are found, Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said on Friday amid a row over medical entrance exam NEET.

The National Testing Agency (NTA) has come under criticism amid allegations of irregularities and inflation of marks in the medical entrance exam.

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About action taken against six centres where the exam paper was wrongly distributed and candidates had to be compensated with grace marks to make up for the loss of time, he said, "Every aspect is being looked into. Accountability will be fixed and depending on the nature of lapse, action will be taken."

"There is no scope for any malpractice or irregularities in the conduct of any exam.We will not tolerate that. The accountability of the National Testing Agency (NTA) will also be fixed if lapses are found," Pradhan said in response to a question by PTI.

"The government is committed to protecting the interests of NEET examinees. Concerns of students will be addressed with fairness and equity. Facts related to NEET are in cognisance of the Supreme Court. The counselling process will be underway soon and it is of utmost importance to move ahead in this direction without any confusion," he added.

The minister's comments came on a day when the Congress stepped up its attack on the government over the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET)-UG exam issue and questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "silence" on the matter.

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The opposition party asserted that only a Supreme Court-monitored forensic probe can safeguard the future of lakhs of young students.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge claimed the Modi government has started "covering up the NEET scam" through the Union education minister and NTA.

"They have just lost the elections and are now looking for a new issue. We have the facts and misleading students and the public based on lies is not right," he added.

Explaining the rationale behind the rise in the number of toppers and cut-off marks this year, Pradhan said the syllabus for NEET was reduced as per the syllabus rationalised by NCERT.

"In previous years, the NEET syllabus wasn't cut down. This year we also aligned the questions with the state boards' syllabus. Less syllabus and more number of candidates also led to the rise in competition and ultimately increase in the number of top scorers," the Union education minister said.

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Pradhan reiterated that there is no concrete proof to establish the allegations of paper leaks in this year's NEET-UG exam.

He met some NEET aspirants and their parents on Friday and addressed their issues.

The Union minister said NEET-UG was held at over 4,500 centres and incorrect question distribution was reported from just six of them.

"Just because of the six centres, we can't question the sanctity and credibility of the entire system."

Asked if the government will take steps to bring some reforms in the way NTA conducts entrance exam, Pradhan said, "NTA is a competent agency.

However, no institution is perfect and we work on bringing reforms continuously".

"I will reply with facts in Parliament," the Union education minister said responding to Congress' assertion that the NEET issue would "reverberate inside Parliament as well".

Earlier in the day, Pradhan met two students and a parent, who had come to the Education Ministry to raise their grievances about NEET.

The NTA on Thursday told the Supreme Court that the decision to award grace marks to 1,563 candidates in NEET-UG for admission to MBBS, BDS and other courses was cancelled and they would be given the option to take a retest on June 23.

The education ministry last week set up a four-member panel to review the grace marks awarded to 1,563 students to compensate them for "loss of time" due to a delay in starting the examination at certain centres.

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