NEET: Why an exam has sparked national outrage in India

By Cherylann MollanBBC News, Mumbai

Getty Images NEW DELHI, INDIA - JUNE 15: Members of NSUI protest Mashal March organized by NSUI to protest against the alleged rigging in the NEET Exams, they demand a fair investigation and re-conduct of the examination (RENEET). at NSUI office , Raisina road, on June 15, 2024 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Sanchit Khanna/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)Getty Images

After hundreds of candidates received excessively large marks in this year’s test, a crucial medical exam in India has sparked outrage, demonstrations, and accusations of cheating.

The National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test ( UG), an admissions requirement for the National Testing Agency (NTA ), is the country’s equivalent of the National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test ( UG), which is administered by the NTA. The National Testing Agency (NTA ), a government agency that administers some of India’s biggest exams, is responsible for its conduct.

Thousands of students take the exam each year, but only a small proportion of them receive high much scores to get a college position. However, this year’s problem is a little unique: too some candidates have received top marks, which lowers the ranking system and makes it difficult for even high-scoring candidates to be admitted.

Since the results were released on June 4, the exam has been subject to scrutiny for a variety of reasons, including allegations of paper leaks and fraud, and grace marks ( compensatory marks ) being given in a shoddy manner. Numerous requests have been filed in authorities to this conclusion, and students and parents have pressed for a re-test.

NTA authorities have denied claims of paper leaking, but on Sunday, national Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan admitted that” some anomalies” had come to light in particular test areas. He said that no- one, including NTA officers, may be spared if abnormalities were found.

On Tuesday, India’s top court issued a notice to the NTA, saying that even if there was” 0.001 % negligence on the part of anyone it should be thoroughly dealt with”.

All of this is minor comfort for those who devote months or even years to studying for this arduous interview.

Tens of millions of students in India aspire to be admitted to a reputable health or executive school every year. These professions demand a lot of respect and offer hope for a regular, long-term income in a nation in crisis.

An incredible 2.4 million students competed for the NEET exam’s only 110, 000 seats this year, underscoring the intense strain and brutal competition faced by aspiring individuals.

Of the entire seats, 55, 000- 60, 000 seats belong to authorities- work colleges, while exclusive colleges offer the sleep. The majority of the tickets are for poor students.

Students sheep to state colleges for their pricing. A five- time MBBS training in a state college costs between 500, 000 and 1 million rupees ($ 5, 992-$ 11, 984 ), whereas private colleges may cost up to ten times more.

Getty Images NOIDA, INDIA - MAY 5: Candidates leave after appearing for National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET-UG) exam at Cambridge school in Sector 27, on May 5, 2024 in Noida, India. (Photo by Sunil Ghosh/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)Getty Images

What led to the disagreement?

When results were announced on 4 June, it turned out that an unprecedented 67 students had achieved the perfect score of 720 marks.

Only one to three students have received full marks annually since NEET became the standard entrance examination for clinical colleges in India in 2016, and occasionally not even that.

There was a significant increase in the number of individuals who scored between 650 and 680 this year, further bolstering the race for seats in India’s leading medical schools.

Parents and students expressed concerns about the strange results, who allege irregularities in the course’s handling and marking and demanded an analysis.

But the NTA refuted these allegations, saying that the “integrity of the examination had not been compromised” and that there were more high scorers this year because more students had taken the exam.

Additionally, it stated that 1, 563 candidates received “grace signs” for delays at test centers and because a physics problem turned out to have two right answers. Notably, 50 out of the 67 top scorers achieved perfect marks due to these compensatory points.

But on 13 June, India’s top court cancelled the compensatory marks after several students filed petitions challenging the NTA’s decision, calling it “arbitrary” and “unfair”.

The Supreme Court also requested that students who had received grace marks be given the option to retake the test, which is scheduled to take place on June 23.

But protesters say the court’s ruling does n’t address the larger issues they raised, like allegations of paper leaks, cheating and systemic corruption.

Getty images JUNE 9: Indian Youth Congress workers protest against the alleged irregularities in the NEET-UG examination, at IYC office, on June 9, 2024 in New Delhi, India. The National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET-UG) has faced several allegations of irregularities and paper leak after 67 students topped the exams this year scoring a percentile of 99.997129. (Photo by Salman Ali/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)Getty images

The eye of the storm

Surbhi Sharma, 23, who attempted the exam for the fifth time this year and scored 650 marks, alleges that paper leaks – rampant in India – are behind the fluctuations in scores.

She noted that despite a significant increase in high scorers ( in the 650- 680 mark range ), there was no similar rise in mid- range scorers ( 610- 640 marks ).

” The paper was simpler this year, according to NTA officials, which has resulted in higher scores for more candidates. But if that was the case, everyone should had done better and not just a section of the candidates”, she claims.

Dr Vivek Pandey, an activist assisting candidates with related court petitions, supports her stance.

He assisted in filing a Supreme Court petition on June 1 in which 10 students alleged the exam paper had been leaked at exam centers in Patna, Bihar’s capital, for retaking the NEET.

Shortly after the exam was over, the Bihar police launched an investigation into the allegations. On 10 May, they announced the arrest of 13 people, including four students, in connection with a paper leak case.

On 15 June, the police sent notices to nine more students suspected of being involved in the case, and asked them to join the investigation.

Manavjit Singh Dhillon, a senior police official, told the Times of India newspaper that the 13 accused had allegedly leaked the question paper to 30 candidates in a “safe house” a day before the exam in exchange for hundreds of thousands of rupees.

He told PTI news agency separately that during the course of the investigation, officials had recovered post-dated cheques and partially burnt papers and that they had sought question papers from the NTA for reference.

The exam has also been accused of cheating and fraud, in addition to the claims of paper leaks.

In Delhi and Rajasthan, six people have been detained by police for allegedly impersonating NEET candidates to administer the exam on their behalf. Five people were detained by police in Gujarat state for their alleged involvement in a cheating plot at a Godhra exam center.

Political slugfest

Opposition leaders have criticized the Bharatiya Janata Party ( BJP)-led coalition government for “betraying the dreams” of millions of students.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s silence on the subject was questioned by Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge and his administration were accused of” covering up the NEET scam.” Additionally, the group has demanded a Supreme Court-led investigation into the alleged irregularities.

Meanwhile, on July 8th, the Supreme Court will hear a number of petitions relating to the NEET exam results, including those that want the test to be canceled.