NTA Finds Its Credibility Tested Like Never Before

NEET scam protest being carried on in Bhopal on Tuesday. | File Image

Life has come full circle for the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test, commonly known as ‘NEET’. Introduced in 2013 as a unified national entrance exam for all medical and dental courses to overcome the alleged malpractices at the state-level exams and admissions, the latest edition of NEET-Undergraduate (UG) is facing a litany of accusations about discrepancies ranging from cheating to paper leak to manipulation of marks.

Amid court cases and social media chatter of a possible large-scale ‘scam’, the National Testing Agency (NTA), the government body responsible for conducting for pre-medical and other nationwide exams, finds its credibility tested like never before.

Here’s a quick recap of the turn of events: On May 5, the day NEET was conducted, the allegations of exam paper being leaked from a centre at Sawai Madhopur in Rajasthan started doing rounds on the internet. NTA was quick to clarify that there was no ‘leak’, though it acknowledged that there was an issue of a wrong question paper being given to the candidates at the centre.

The issue got murkier after NTA released the results June 4, well ahead of the scheduled date of June 14, and on a day when the entire nation was gripped by the outcome of the general elections.

The first anomaly noticed by aspirants and their parents was the fact that a few candidates had scored 718 and 719 out of the total 720 marks – a statistical impossibility given the negative marking scheme of the exam. The unusually high number of students, 67, scoring the perfect 720 also caught their eye – there have never been more than three students with the cent percent results past few years.

The strangest part was that eight of the candidates who received the maximum possible marks took the test at a single examination centre in Haryana.

Following the outrage, NTA revealed that it had given ‘compensatory’ marks to over 1,500 candidates, including six who got the perfect score, due to a loss of time at six centres. It further enraged the aspirants who pointed out that there was no such provision for additional marks in the examination brochure.

After some petitioners, including test-prep firm Physics Wallah founder Alakh Pandey and the Students Islamic Organisation of India (SIO), moved to the Supreme Court, the agency announced a retest for the candidates who got the grace marks.

While NTA has disclosed that 63 cases of unfair means have been reported during NEET this year, it has asserted that there has been compromise with the overall integrity of the test.

However, even as the agency continues to deny the paper leak, police in Bihar and Gujarat claimed to have found evidence of an organised operation to provide question papers to certain candidates beforehand in lieu of large sums of money. Several persons, including students, their parents and even exam officials have been booked.

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