National Testing Agency (NTA) Director General Subodh Kumar Singh addresses a press conference regarding NEET-UG medical entrance exam results, in New Delhi.
National Testing Agency (NTA) Director General Subodh Kumar Singh addresses a press conference regarding NEET-UG medical entrance exam results, in New Delhi.FILE Photo | PTI

NTA chief Subodh Kumar Singh removed amid paper leak row; CBI to probe NEET-UG irregularities

Retired 1985 batch officer Pradeep Singh Kharola has assumed the role of interim chief of the NTA until a permanent replacement is appointed or further instructions are issued.

NEW DELHI: Subodh Kumar Singh, head of the National Testing Agency (NTA), has been removed from his post on Saturday night due to misconduct accusations related to the NEET-UG and UGC-NET exams. He has been kept on compulsory wait at the Department of Personnel and Training.

Retired 1985 batch officer Pradeep Singh Kharola has assumed the role of interim chief of the NTA until a permanent replacement is appointed or further instructions are issued.

Meanwhile, the Education Ministry has decided to hand over the investigation of irregularities found in the NEET (UG) Examination held on May 5, 2024, in OMR (pen and paper) mode to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) after a thorough review.

The Education Ministry underscored the government's unwavering commitment to upholding examination integrity and safeguarding students' interests. It reiterated that stringent action awaits any individuals or entities found culpable of malpractice.

Moreover, the Union Government has enacted the Public Examination (Prevention of Unfair Means) Act, 2024, aimed at curbing unfair practices in public examinations and addressing associated concerns.

Notably, issues within the NTA have been long-standing, with several groups allegedly involved in the leakage of exam papers. However, the scale of the problem became glaringly apparent this year, following allegations of widespread irregularities in the conduct of the 2024 NEET-UG entrance examinations.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear various complaints against the NEET-UG exam on July 8. Over the past two months, the NTA has faced controversies concerning alleged irregularities and leaks in two major national exams—NEET-UG and UGC-NET.

National Testing Agency (NTA) Director General Subodh Kumar Singh addresses a press conference regarding NEET-UG medical entrance exam results, in New Delhi.
Centre postpones NEET-PG entrance exam amid row over paper leaks

Kharola, who steps in as the NTA's interim chief, has previously served as the Chairman of the National Recruitment Agency (NRA) and CMD of Air India. His extensive experience in various administrative roles is expected to help stabilise the agency during this tumultuous period.

The NEET-UG—an undergraduate medical entrance exam—was conducted on May 5, with results announced on June 4, ten days earlier than scheduled. The results revealed an unprecedented 67 students topping the exam, sparking allegations of rigging and paper leaks. Notably, 44 out of the 67 toppers had achieved perfect scores after receiving grace marks for a physics question.

And on June 10, the Centre informed the Supreme Court that the grace marks awarded to over 1,500 students in the NEET exams would be revoked, allowing them to retake the exam, scheduled to be held today.

Established by the Centre in 2017, the National Testing Agency (NTA) is an autonomous body responsible for conducting entrance examinations for admissions and fellowships in higher educational institutions.

From test preparation to delivery and scoring, the NTA manages these tasks scientifically, in consultation with subject matter experts and psychometricians.

Outgoing chief Subodh Kumar Singh, 50, has been central to these issues.

Known for his preference to avoid the limelight, Singh hails from Uttar Pradesh. He holds engineering degrees from IIT Roorkee and an MBA from IGNOU, New Delhi. Singh joined the Indian Administrative Services (IAS) after clearing the UPSC Civil Services Exam in 1997. He holds a B.Tech. in Electrical Engineering from IIT Roorkee.

Before his role at the NTA, Singh served as an additional secretary in the Department of Food and Public Distribution under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food, and Public Distribution. He also spent nine years in the Chhattisgarh Secretariat, working under BJP Chief Minister Raman Singh and holding various positions. Despite his close association with the former Chhattisgarh CM, which led to perceptions of him being aligned with the BJP, even Congress leaders appreciated his work.

After the Congress took power in 2018, Singh was perceived to be sidelined, with his final role in the state being secretary in the labour, stamp, and registration department until January 2020.

National Testing Agency (NTA) Director General Subodh Kumar Singh addresses a press conference regarding NEET-UG medical entrance exam results, in New Delhi.
EXPLAINED| Why was the CSIR-UGC-NET exam postponed?
National Testing Agency (NTA) Director General Subodh Kumar Singh addresses a press conference regarding NEET-UG medical entrance exam results, in New Delhi.
'We take responsibility': Education Minister announces panel to probe irregularities in NEET, UGC-NET exams

X
The New Indian Express
www.newindianexpress.com