Clearing matters around NEET
With the result of National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) 2017, the Medical Counselling Committee (MCC) is announced publish the second allotment result for the Deemed and Central Universities today. Out of 8,248 seats under 15 per cent (all India quota for medical and dental colleges), nearly 4000 seats have been allotted in the first round. With this, once again, the question about the method this examination is conducted and its credibility are brought to highlight. The NEET replaces all state-based medical entrance exams and has found opposition by many non-Hindi states. State board students make up a stupendous majority of medical aspirants in every non-Hindi state. This is to the extent that NEET has created a booming business for CBSE schools and there have mushroomed several NEET specific coaching centres. Rajasthan's city of Kota is known to be virtually a mini cottage industry of such exam preparations.
In a recent development, the Supreme Court on Thursday pulled up Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) for setting different question papers for students appearing for this test in regional languages. The apex court observed that there should be a common question paper for all NEET examinations. The board found itself in a fix over the regional papers of NEET 2017 examinations conducted on May 7, 2017, after candidates approached the courts since they found the level of difficulty of regional language papers higher than the English and Hindi papers. Candidates who had appeared for the test in Gujarati medium moved the High Court, seeking its direction to the CBSE to scrap the 7 May test and hold it afresh with the same set of question papers for English and Gujarati languages. On 14 July, the apex court declined to "nullify" NEET examinations, as it would affect over six lakh candidates who have passed the test to join professional courses. "In any case, it is very difficult to disturb the result," a three-judge Bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra said while refusing to accept the submission of counsel appearing for the petitioners, who said that three sets of question papers were given to the candidates in the exam in Andhra Pradesh.
The petitioners had argued that the all-India ranking was given in the NEET exam, which postulates that every candidate should get the same question paper. On 23 July, Union Human Resource Development minister Prakash Javadekar said that vernacular question papers for the NEET will be a mere translation of the question paper in English. In an additional development in the matter, the Supreme Court on Tuesday considered the submission of the Centre that it was willing to include Urdu as a language in the NEET, the common entrance test for admission into medical courses, from academic session 2018-19 onwards. A bench, headed by Justices Dipak Misra, noted the submission made by Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, appearing for the Centre, that it was not opposed to conducting the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test in Urdu medium also from 2018. The solicitor general had on March 31 told the apex court that a students' body seeking conduct of the NEET in Urdu language had accused the Centre of being "communal". Certainly, this cannot be the case since many aspirants from a community are not well-versed enough in Urdu to the extent of taking a national-level competitive exam in the language.
At present, the test is conducted in ten languages — Hindi, English, Gujarati, Marathi, Oriya, Bengali, Assamese, Telegu, Tamil, and Kannada. Whether or not NEET should be scrapped due to its inherent anomalies, remains a debate for another time. But for now, it urgently needs some fixing, beginning with being truly a common test for all examinees. There is no dispute in conducting the test in different languages for the convenience of aspirants from different lingual backgrounds. But there is no justification for having different questions for different language papers and carrying it out as a 'national' test.