Not a ‘NEET’ affair but an exercise that creates disparity

Complaints of rampant cheating have resulted in anxiety and dejection among the aspirants and many arrests have been made in Maharashtra and Rajasthan.
There is an exponential increase in reports of suicides among NEET aspirants before and after the exams.
There is an exponential increase in reports of suicides among NEET aspirants before and after the exams.(Express Illustration)

National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) is not new to controversies, be it paper leaks or candidate impersonation. This year is no different as there wee reports of wide-scale paper leaks and candidate impersonation across the nation, with states like Bihar, Rajasthan, and Gujarat at the forefront. Though the government agencies have rejected these allegations, repeated complaints and investigations reveal otherwise.

Though introduced to streamline the admission and entrance process for medical courses across India, reports of widescale irregularities in the examination process have raised more questions about the efficacy of NEET in meeting higher standards in medical education.

There is an exponential increase in reports of suicides among NEET aspirants before and after the exams. That’s when Kota in Rajasthan comes into the limelight. Students and aspirants from across India come to the city to attend coaching classes for NEET, and consequently, the suicide rate is higher here. In Tamil Nadu, beginning with a Dalit girl S Anita, there have been multiple cases of student suicides.

Complaints of rampant cheating have resulted in anxiety and dejection among the aspirants and many arrests have been made in Maharashtra and Rajasthan. In Bihar, it was found that the question paper was leaked a day before the examination and the students were asked to stay at a particular lodge and were given the question paper a day in advance. Around 35 students were given the question papers along with the answers. In Gujarat, an invigilator named Tushar Bhat, for a price of `1 crore, asked students to leave the questions blank and said he would later fill them up with the right answers before submission.

These incidents have proven that the exam irregularities are not just rumours. More than a hundred people have been arrested across India this year in connection with NEET-related fraud. In Tamil Nadu, there is a disparity among students appearing for the exam. Economically and socially backward students are unable to afford NEET coaching classes and find it tough to compete. The disparity coupled with the cheating and is creating distress and despair among students.

Tamil Nadu is known for its medical infrastructure, with government hospitals and over 2,000 primary health centres offering premium medical care. The global standard is one doctor for 1,000 people, but in Tamil Nadu, the ratio is four doctors to a thousand. The state achieved this much before NEET was introduced.

With the introduction of NEET, meritorious students have been filtered out due to extensive cheating and economic disparities. How can a rural student from Tamil Nadu compete with well-equipped students from elite coaching centers? How can NEET determine the merits of a bright scholar based on a flawed process called the NEET exam? One competitive exam across the country for candidates coming from different backgrounds and education boards is flawed and cannot be the solution.

The NEET system has weakened the incoming pool of scholars from Tamil Nadu, as students from rural areas and economically weaker sections are blocked out.

At a time when some doctors being hesitant to serve the compulsory two-year service bond, sidelining rural aspirants will not bode well for Tamil Nadu’s distinction as a leader in primary healthcare providers. The NEET format needs to be scrapped and school education performance need to be considered during admissions to medical education.

Bihar cheating

It was found that the question paper of NEET was leaked a day before the examination and the students were asked to stay at a particular lodge and were given the question paper a day in advance

Dr SAS Hafeezullah

(The writer has MD in General Medicine and is a consultant general physician)

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