NEET to NET-UG row: As Opposition calls it ‘repeated incompetence of Modi government’, students lose faith

Political leaders across India called this a "dangerous time" for our education system and criticised PM Modi for "repeated incompetence."

ByNolan Patrick Pinto

Published Jun 20, 2024 | 5:34 PM Updated Jun 20, 2024 | 8:44 PM

What political leaders and students say about NEET and NET-UG controversy

The cancellation of the UGC-NET by the Education Ministry has sparked widespread condemnation from political parties across India. The decision, announced late on the night of Wednesday, 20 June  came just a day after the examination was conducted, citing concerns over compromised examination integrity based on inputs from the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The UGC-NET exam – conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA) – was abruptly cancelled with plans for a fresh examination, for which date hasn’t been announced yet. Additionally, the matter has been referred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for a comprehensive investigation after reports that “integrity of the exam” might have been compromised.

UGC-NET is a test to determine the eligibility of Indian nationals for the award of junior research fellowship, for appointment as assistant professors and admission to PhD in Indian universities and colleges.

Political leaders from various parties have criticised the Modi government’s handling of the situation, questioning the abrupt cancellation and calling for transparency in the investigation process. The cancellation has left thousands of aspirants in uncertainty and raised concerns about the credibility of the examination system.

The Education Ministry’s decision has also prompted demands for accountability and assurances from the government regarding the fairness and future conduct of national-level examinations. As the situation unfolds, stakeholders await further developments and clarity on the future course of action regarding the UGC-NET.

Related: Education Ministry cancels UGC-NET a day after exam, CBI to launch probe

Political parties demand accountability

AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi lashed out at the Modi-led government at the Centre on Thursday, 20 June saying it was unable to conduct even one exam properly and sought to know what steps it is taking to prevent question paper leaks in future.

The Hyderabad MP in a post on social media platform ‘X’ said, “After the NEET scam, now the UGC-NET exam has also been cancelled because its paper was leaked. Security of the country is a big thing, the Modi government is not able to conduct even one exam properly.” He also pointed to 41 cases of question paper leaks that have affected job seekers in 15 states.

West Bengal Education Minister Bratya Basu took to X to post, “New scam in the market in the series of scams! Cancellation of UGC-NET due to compromised integrity of the examination! CBI enquiry has been ordered! Question is can they nab the HEAD?”

Karnataka Deputy CM DK Shivakumar questioned the integrity of the National Testing Agency (NTA). Taking to X, he wrote, “The nation hasn’t even wrapped its head around the devastating NEET exam leak, and now the integrity of UGC NET exam also stands compromised and cancelled.”

He also added this these compromises are playing with the future of our children saying, “These recurring compromises of our examination system especially in BJP ruled states are putting a huge question mark on the future of our children, with their hardwork going down the drain each time. These leaks are proof of BJP Govt’s inability to secure the future of our nation. Truly, a dark and dangerous time for our education system, and the govt’s inability to take measures is pushing the system into further trouble. Congress Party will speak up for our children and their future fearlessly until this govt is forced to listen and take action.”

Meanwhile, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan urged the Centre to take immediate steps to resolve the crisis in the NTA saying its “repeated incompetence” in conducting exams such as NEET and the UGC-NET cannot be accepted.

“The controversy over NEET has barely subsided, and now the Ministry of Education has announced the cancellation of UGC-NET, citing compromised exam integrity. This repeated incompetence is unacceptable, leaving students in limbo and wasting public money,” the CM said in a post on ‘X’. “The Central Government must take immediate steps to resolve this crisis at NTA and ensure a fair, transparent, and reliable examination process,” Vijayan said.

John Brittas, CPI(M) MP also took to X, “When NEET to NET collapses.. see how  saffronisation done; NET qstns for a Theatre sturdent- Ayodhya pranprathishta date, how Hanuman is described, the sloka in Ramayan, beheaded but kept alive in Mahabharata, Hindi exponent…How do we intend to mould our next generation?!”

MB Patil, Karnataka Infrastructure Minister, spoke to media about the controversy. He said, “Our CET (state government’s exam) is time-tested and so we should leave it to the states to conduct their own exams. Tamil Nadu also has problems of language. So, it is better to leave it to the states or NEET has to be made fool-proof.”

Karnataka Medical Education Minister Sharan Prakash Patil said, “It is very apparent that something has happened in NEET examination. Students are so apprehensive and they are asking for a CBI enquiry. I don’t know why the government of India is not ordering a CBI probe. I don’t know whom they are protecting. Now that the NET has been cancelled, it has cast a shadow on the whole episode.”

Andhra Pradesh Congress also hit out at the Union government for cancellation of the NET exam saying that the hard work put in by students have been wasted.

Related: How are exams being rigged? Educationalist highlights multiple facets of manipulation of entrance examinations

NEET aspirants have little faith in NTA

On the other hand, many medical aspirants are clamouring for a retest of the NEET-UG 2024 which has been plagued with charges of irregularities, paper leaks and steep rise in merit list, with the Centre’s decision to cancel grace marks for 1,563 students doing little to assuage their concerns.

Student bodies and youth wings of many political parties have been holding protests countrywide to flag their concerns over the alleged irregularities in the prestigious exam that saw 67 students score a perfect 720 out of 720 this year, unprecedented in the National Testing Agency’s (NTA) history.

With reports of paper leak and other discrepancies continuing to pour in, many students say they have lost faith in the conduct of the exam. While many demand a thorough inquiry in the allegations of the paper leak, a significant number of people think that the re-test option given to 1,563 students is a mere “eyewash”.

Aheli Ghosh Hazra, a National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) aspirant from West Bengal told PTI, “The inflation in marks is too much to be offset by a selective retest of 1,563 students. I think revaluation of marks of each student will be a good thing, otherwise a universal retest, but then the government must give us one to two months to prepare.”

On the conduct of NEET this year, she said, “You cannot fix a sick tree by just taking a sick leaf out of it. The whole tree must be uprooted. We have no clue to what extent the rigging took place.”

Another aspirant from Madhya Pradesh said things look “fairly unjust” from his point of view. “They just want to get it over with. They also want to hide the paper leak scam,” Animesh, a NEET aspirant said.

Animesh demanded a retest for all candidates. “Only those with scores above 650 would have an issue with a retest. There must be a retest, but they must give some more time to students. Everyone is out of momentum. Everyone is bogged down by media reports. Logistically, it won’t be feasible for the NTA too to conduct retest in a short time,” he said.

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NEET-UG 2024 paper leak 

The National Eligibility cum Entrance Test for Undergraduate (NEET-UG) 2024 have been embroiled in controversy following allegations of rigging and paper leaks. This triggered widespread protests across the nation. It was conducted on 5 May and the results were unexpectedly announced on 4 June, in which 67 students were declared as joint toppers.

Opposition parties and student groups intensified their protests with a demand that NEET-UG 2024 be cancelled. Protests gained momentum amidst the ongoing Supreme Court hearings on the matter.

The Centre and the NTA then informed the Supreme Court on 13 June of its decision to revoke grace marks awarded to 1,563 NEET candidates. The candidates will have the option to either take a retest (on 23 June) or forgo the compensatory marks awarded to them for the loss of time, the Centre had said.

After denying paper leak allegations for weeks, on Wednesday, 19 June, the Ministry sought a report from the Bihar Police’s Economic Offences Unit regarding alleged irregularities in the conduct of the NEET exam in Patna, officials said.

The NEET-UG examination is conducted by the NTA for admissions to MBBS, BDS, AYUSH and other related courses in government and private institutions across the country.

(Edited by Neena)

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