19 May 2016 13:42 IST

Centre to postpone NEET by a year

Will challenge any move to defer the common medical entrance, say activists

Buckling under pressure, the Centre has decided to defer the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) for medical college admission by a year through an ordinance or executive order.

Following the Supreme Court order to implement NEET with immediate effect, the government was proposing to do so. However, it faced strong opposition from most of the States as well as medical colleges, which ‘in-principle’ favoured the concept, but objected to the immediate implementation.

Under NEET, students would get admission to medical colleges across the country — both government and private — only on the basis of merit, scrapping, in the process, “management quota” seats.

The opposition to immediate implementation of NEET lies on two major issues — language barrier for non-English/Hindi-speaking students and the unequal syllabus across school boards.

While States agreed that NEET was a welcome move to bring in transparency and remove several malpractices in medical education, they pointed out that in some States, the examination process was either underway or would soon commence.

However, the Centre may still find itself in a fix, as health activists across the country, who want NEET to take place, propose to contest any decision to defer it.

Anand Rai, activist and whistleblower in the Vyapam scam, said: “If they bring the ordinance, we will challenge it.” Rai exposed the scam in Madhya Pradesh where government officials were selling medical seats. He believes NEET is the answer to the prevalent corruption.

GS Grewal, President of the Punjab Medical Council, said: “NEET is not a new development, it was proposed back in 2009. In all these years, no government felt that we need to have the same level of education and syllabus; no meetings were held with States to alert them about such a proposal and that they need to prepare for it.” Further, the first part of the test has already been conducted, so why the hold up for the next phase, he asked.

“The pertinent point is that postponing the examination by a year is not going to necessarily ensure that States will match their syllabus with that of the CBSE,” the National Coalition for Medical Ethics said.

The Coalition also believes that about 80 Members of Parliament have interest in private medical education and were blocking the common entrance, since it would do away with the system of management quota and capitation fees. It is estimated that such paid seats in the graduate and post-graduate levels are worth over ₹12,000 crore each year.

“One uniform test is a good move but somehow, the timing is not right, which may lead to aspirant distress this year,” said Dr CV Rao, Director of GITAM Institute of Medical Sciences and Research, Visakhapatnam.