NEET-PG Postponement Amidst NEET-UG Controversy and UGC-NET Exam Cancellation: CBI Inquiry and NTA Leadership Shake-up

The last-minute postponement of the NEET-PG exam has sparked strong backlash from candidates, parents, and the medical community.
Students Protesting Outside the Ministry of Education
Students Protesting Outside the Ministry of EducationSFI

New Delhi - Indian students aspiring to build their careers and relying on government entities for a fair entrance process face another setback. Following controversies with NEET-UG and the cancellation of UGC-NET within 24 hours of the exam, the National Testing Agency has now cancelled NEET-PG just 8 hours before it was scheduled to take place.

The NEET PG exam is a qualifying entrance for MS/MD programs in medical colleges of India.

Originally scheduled for June 23, the exam has been delayed, with new dates to be announced soon, according to a Health Ministry statement on June 22.

Citing the need for a thorough review due to alleged irregularities in NEET-UG and UGC-NET, the government stated it would reassess the processes of NEET-PG conducted by the National Board of Examination for medical students.

"As a precautionary measure, the NEET-PG scheduled for tomorrow (June 23) has been postponed. The new date will be announced shortly," the Health Ministry added, expressing regret for the inconvenience caused to students.

According to a report from The Indian Express, Dr. Prajwal Oswal, a graduate of Pune’s Bharati Vidyapeeth (Deemed to be University) Medical College preparing for the NEET-PG exam, expressed deep disappointment over the fourth rescheduling of the exam this year. He criticized the government for what he perceives as a lack of seriousness, accusing them of playing with the futures of thousands of doctors.

Dr. Shreyash Borkar, who completed his MBBS at Pune’s BJ Government Medical College and traveled from Amravati to Nagpur for the exam, conveyed his frustration and inability to concentrate. He described feeling overwhelmed and expressed his dismay, calling the decision the worst possible outcome.

The All India Democratic Students Organization (AIDSO) has demanded the immediate resignation of the Union Health and Education Minister following the postponement of the NEET-PG 2024 exam.

In a press release, AIDSO's General Secretary, Sourav Ghosh, expressed outrage over the sudden announcement, citing that the exam has been rescheduled four times, causing immense stress and anxiety to approximately 2.5 lakh candidates who had been preparing for this competitive exam.

Ghosh highlighted the logistical challenges faced by working doctors who had already made arrangements to appear for the exam.

The statement from AIDSO also criticized what they perceive as a major scandal in the administration of the NEET-PG exam, echoing concerns raised over recent incidents such as the cancellation of the UGC-NET exam and the postponement of the CSIR NET.

They accused the government of attempting to conceal allegations of wrongdoing amidst ongoing protests against what they describe as the biggest education scam in India related to NEET-UG 2024.

The Students' Federation of India, Central Executive Committee, similarly condemned these actions as anti-student, calling for accountability and a high-level judicial inquiry into the matter.

NTA Director General Removed, Investigation Transferred to CBI

In the midst of all the controversies, the government removed the NTA chief and formed a panel led by ex-ISRO chief K Radhakrishnan to review and reform the agency's operations. Former NTA DG Subodh Kumar Singh was placed on "compulsory wait" in the DoPT, replaced by retired IAS officer Pradeep Singh Kharola.

Alongside the change in leadership at the NTA, the government has shifted the inquiry into suspected irregularities during the NEET-UG exam, which took place on May 5, to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). This decision mirrors a previous investigation into the UGC-NET exam overseen by the NTA.

Prior to his tenure at the National Testing Agency (NTA), he served in various roles within the Chhattisgarh Secretariat and the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food, and Public Distribution.

Despite facing allegations of corruption during the Raman Singh administration in Chhattisgarh, Subodh Kumar held significant positions, including roles in the Chief Minister’s Office.

He received national awards for his contributions to implementing the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and for pioneering digital transparency in mineral auctions.

The removal of Subodh Kumar Singh and the subsequent transfer of investigations to the CBI represent a crucial development in the ongoing controversies surrounding NEET and NET exams. These government actions aim to uphold integrity and fairness in these pivotal national-level examinations.

In the interim, Pradeep Singh Kharola, who currently serves as the chairperson and managing director of the India Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO), has been assigned additional responsibilities as the head of NTA until a permanent replacement is appointed. Kharola, a retired officer from the 1985 batch, was previously enlisted to expedite the Pragati Maidan project.

What is the NTA?

The National Testing Agency (NTA), established in November 2017 under the Indian Societies Registration Act, 1860, operates independently to conduct a range of entrance examinations for admissions to higher educational institutions. These include prominent exams like NEET, JEE, CTET, GATE, GPAT, GMAT, CAT, UGC-NET, and CSIR-UGC NET.

In response to recent controversies surrounding these exams, the Union government announced the formation of a high-level committee on June 20th.

This committee will consist of technocrats, scientists, educational administrators, academics, and psychologists tasked with recommending improvements to NTA's structure, processes, data management, and security protocols.

Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan emphasized the government's commitment to transparency and ensuring a fair system for students. He stated during a press conference that the government takes full responsibility for refining the examination system, pledging zero tolerance for any malpractice or irregularity.

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