NEET-PG: Students slam last-minute exam cancellation, say medical education is a mess

Shocked, disappointed, and depressed – that’s the condition of an estimated 2 lakh NEET-PG students who learned that NEET-PG was cancelled for the third time this year.
Some learned about the cancellation at the exam centre, others through social media, and some via media reports.
Some learned about the cancellation at the exam centre, others through social media, and some via media reports.Photo | EXPRESS

NEW DELHI: Travelling from Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh to take her NEET-PG exam in Jaipur, Seetha (name changed) received the devastating news just 10 hours before the prestigious exam that it had been cancelled.

The 23-year-old, who had invested a year of hard work, is in deep shock. “She can’t speak. We are trying to motivate her. My parents are very concerned,” said her brother, a doctor in Rajasthan.

“My cousin, also taking the NEET-PG exam in Kurnool, burst into tears upon hearing the postponement. He prepared for over a year, enduring sleepless nights and relying on sleeping pills. He is crushed,” he said, on condition of anonymity.

Shocked, disappointed, and depressed – that’s the condition of an estimated 2 lakh NEET-PG students who learned on Saturday night that the Sunday exam, an eligibility-cum-ranking examination for admission to various MD/MS and PG Diploma Courses, was cancelled for the third time this year.

Some learned about the cancellation at the exam centre, others through social media, and some via media reports.
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TNIE spoke to over a dozen aspirants, some working in hospitals and others jobless. The initial shock gave way to anger at the examination system, which failed to hold public examinations without malpractice or paper leaks, affecting the fate of lakhs of young students.

Some learned about the cancellation at the exam centre, others through social media, and some via media reports.

Responses varied from crying and getting drunk to avoiding calls from family, friends, and colleagues. Many took to social media to criticise the government and authorities for “playing with the lives of young students” and expressed the desire to leave the country.

Many aspirants, frustrated by the NEET-UG fiasco, said the arbitrary cancellation of the PG exam shows that medical education in India is in a “complete mess.”

As students considered suing the authorities for psychological and monetary damage, the Federation of Resident Doctors’ Association (FORDA) offered free psychiatric services to NEET-PG aspirants, highlighting the mental trauma many are suffering.

Some learned about the cancellation at the exam centre, others through social media, and some via media reports.
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“The government and the education and health ministry should compensate medical students and PG aspirants. No one is highlighting the mental state of the students. They are making a fool of us. Three exams have been postponed back to back. They have taken the education sector for a ride. They should be ashamed,” said Dr Dhruv Chauhan, national council coordinator of the Indian Medical Association-Junior Doctors Network (IMA-JDN).

The NEET-UG question paper was "leaked" while the NEET-PG, UGC-NET, and CSIR-NET exams were cancelled.

The National Board of Examinations in Medical Sciences (NBE) conducts the NEET-PG exam. Over 2 lakh MBBS graduates appeared for the computer-based exam for around 52,000 post-graduation seats nationwide. Students must study 20 subjects and attempt 200 MCQ questions.

Some learned about the cancellation at the exam centre, others through social media, and some via media reports.
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It is a double blow for Dr Sahifa Harem, a NEET-PG aspirant, whose brother, Shanawar Hussain, took NEET-UG. “Don’t know which is more shocking – the UG controversy or the PG exam cancellation.”

She was looking forward to joining Apollo Hospital in Delhi in the paediatrics department on Monday – a day after the scheduled exam.

“I was working in Lal Bahadur Shastri Hospital but left last December to concentrate on my studies as the exam was initially to be held in March, then postponed to July, then June 23. And now again, there is no certainty when it will be held.”

“At the moment, I am jobless. I don’t think I will be able to join my new job due to this uncertainty about the exam date,” said Harem, from Begusarai in Bihar.

“Authorities should understand our mental state. They should issue a public apology for causing us mental trauma. We couldn’t even celebrate Eid with the family because of the exam and result stress,” she said, adding that her mother has stalled her wedding plans because of the exams.

Some learned about the cancellation at the exam centre, others through social media, and some via media reports.
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Delhi-based Dr Jyoti Gupta said she is returning from Merrut, where her examination centre was. “I reached Meerut a day before the exam and stayed in a hotel. Now, I am dejected. I don’t know when I should start my studies again. This is so frustrating.”

Dr Akash Soni, who has been working as a medical officer in Singrauli Primary Health Centre in Madhya Pradesh for the past ten months, said he took leave from work and travelled overnight by train - a total of 700 km - to reach Bhopal centre.

“Many like me are working and had to take leave from work. It is so disheartening. Since COVID-19, we have been seeing this uncertainty. It is like students pursuing medical education have become guinea pigs for the authorities to experiment on.”

“Doctors are already overburdened. By cancelling the exam three times this year, they are wasting the resources of this country. It’s a huge loss to the nation that doctors serving the nation are suffering like this,” said Dr Soni, also the Federation of All India Medical Association (FAIMA) Doctors Association Madhya Pradesh chairman.

Initially thinking the news of the postponement was fake, Dr Shubham Anand Jha, a Junior Resident at the Lady Hardinge Hospital in the Psychology department, said he couldn’t believe the authorities cancelled the exam at the last minute. “How can they take the students’ lives so lightly? This is so disgraceful.”

“My examination centre was in Meerut. I planned to travel with some other aspirants around 5 am. I know many aspirants who travelled 1,000 km to the exam centre. This is beyond shocking.”

After travelling all night to reach his examination centre in Sri Ganganagar, Rajasthan, from Jaipur, a distance of over 450 km, Dr Sunreet Jakhar slept to get up fresh in the morning to take the exam.

“I was tired after the journey, so I went to sleep. When I reached the examination centre in the morning, I was shocked to see the notice of cancellation outside. I am no longer on social media to avoid distractions, so I didn’t know. It is so stressful to go back to studies and prepare again.”

Similarly, Dr Vishal Bishnoi travelled over 500 km from Jaipur, Rajasthan, to Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh. An intern in the paediatrics department at Jaipur National University, he travelled with his colleague Jitendra Sharma, whose centre was the same. “We had reached the hotel and later found out that the exam had been postponed. It is such a huge disappointment. We are in disbelief.”

Some aspirants said on Telegram that the PG exam paper had been leaked and could be bought for Rs. 20-25 lakh, like the NEET-UG exam.

As the news circulated, the NBE issued a notice on June 21, cautioning aspirants not to be misled by unscrupulous elements claiming to have accessed questions of the upcoming NEET-PG 2024. They said they had registered a police case.

Some learned about the cancellation at the exam centre, others through social media, and some via media reports.
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Dr Manish Jangra, founder of FAIMA, said that medical education in India has become a joke and is in crisis.

“We want to know on what basis NBE has cancelled the exam. They are answerable to the students,” he said.

“We have come to know that many students are in depression. Many took flights, trains, buses, and cabs to travel to far-off examination centres and booked hotels. Some were even travelling to the centre when the news broke,” he added.

Dr Lakshya Mittal, who has been handling numerous calls from anxious aspirants, said that after the NEET-UG irregularities and paper leaks, there is no faith in the National Testing Agency (NTA), despite the government’s move to remove the director general Subodh Kumar Singh and replace him with Pradeep Singh Kharola.

“India’s medical education has been destroyed. This abrupt change, following the NEET-UG scam, underscores a deeply troubling pattern in handling medical examinations and the overall medical education system in India,” he said, adding that the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) should intervene and take strict action on the exam-conducting bodies.

“The entire education system is collapsing.”

He said he is more worried that India’s image would be tarnished. “Many Indian doctors go abroad to study or work. Our doctors would find it difficult abroad after news of paper leaks and irregularities in medical exams. I fear they will be considered fake degree holders.”

Kerala-based Dr Cyriac Abby Philips, popularly known as TheLiverDoc on X (formerly Twitter), said that in his career as a medical professional, he had not seen anything like this.

“The most important postgraduate medical entrance exam in a medical student's life is cancelled 12 hours before by the government. Students have spent years and A LOT of money preparing for this. This is not only devastating for them; it's a mockery of the medical education system in India. Enjoy five more years of this terrible clownery. No one has destroyed this nation as much as the current authorities. Tell me why anyone would want to stay back here to serve a banana republic. Dreaming of a time when we can hold our heads high again.”

Some learned about the cancellation at the exam centre, others through social media, and some via media reports.
NEET & unclean

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