The National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), the single exam that regulates admission into undergraduate medicine, was meant to end corruption in medical education.
In September, as yet another jaw-dropping scandal broke in the world of medical it became obvious that the NEET is still at some distance from achieving its objective.
The “NEET impersonation scam”, involving a Tamil Nadu student, his doctor father, an impersonator from Karnataka and a conspirator from Kerala, broke out with the arrest of a first-year student of Theni Government Medical College in Tamil Nadu on September 25 for allegedly clearing the NEET by paying an impersonator to writing his exam in Mumbai. More such alleged cheats were identified as the case ballooned to involve more colleges, students and parents. By mid-October, the Tamil Nadu Crime Branch’s Criminal Investigation Department (CB-CID) had made 10 arrests.
Those who had opposed the NEET and the centralisation of medical admission it brought over in 2016 and 2017, feel vindicated. Others, however, maintain that NEET is the only way to tackle corruption and that its processes must be strengthened with technology.
Every year lakhs of candidates appear for the exam. In 2019, over 14.10 lakh candidates wrote the test of whom
7,97,042 qualified. The number of seats across the country at present is 76,928.
On September 11 and 13, 2019, the Theni Government Medical College in Theni, Tamil Nadu, received two emails alleging its student, KV Udit Surya, 20, had passed NEET through impersonation. On September 18, the first police case was filed against Surya on a complaint filed by the Theni Government Medical College dean. Surya’s photo in his college application did not match with the one on his NEET scorecard. Later the student’s father, a government doctor and an “agent” based out of Kerala, was arrested on charges of impersonation.
Simultaneously, a massive verification exercise was launched on the orders of the Madras High Court. The National Testing Agency (NTA), which conducts the NEET, was directed to hand over thumb impressions of all 4,250 students who were admitted to various MBBS courses in Tamil Nadu this year to the CB-CID.
The NEET’s very inception is related to scams. It was first introduced in 2013 in response to the massive admissions scam in Madhya Pradesh which had the Vyavsayik Pariksha Mandal (Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board) or Vyapam at its heart. It was scrapped right after but reintroduced in 2016. In 2015, its precursor, the All India Pre-Medical Test had to be nullified after its questions paper was leaked in 10 states.
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