Young doctors in limbo

Around 90,000 aspirants took the National Eligibility Entrance Test (Neet), introduced for the first time for the 11,005 postgraduate (PG) degree seats in medical sciences in private and medical colleges in the country between November and December 2012. The results of Neet were due in January this year, but have been held back as directed by the Supreme Court. Neet-PG is a mandatory test for admission to MD/MS/PG diploma. The test was held at 50 centres in 33 cities across the country. The new method of exam was replicated from the IIM model — an "online test" format for the students — that they introduced three years ago. The PG medical test was conducted for all private and government medical colleges, barring the All India Institute of Medical College (AIIMS), Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education, Chandigarh and Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education and Research (JIPMER), Puducherry. 

Why Neet?

The online system, which kickstarted for the first time last year, offered flexibility to candidates to choose any date in the 10-day period to take the test at their convenience. The whole idea of Neet-PG was to streamline the admission process by bringing transparency and avoiding unnecessary expenditure that the students incurred by sitting for multiple examinations. The idea behind Neet was to have a single test instead of different tests for admission to different institutions across the state. The introduction page of the National Board of Examinations (NBE) document reads, "There shall be a single eligibility-cum-entrance examination namely 'National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test for admission to Postgraduate Medical Courses' in each academic year."

Long wait for aspirants

Over three months have passed since January, when the results of the first Neet were to be declared. They remain undeclared following a Supreme Court direction that the conducting body hold back the results. Reasons for this could be attributed to hundreds of cases in high courts of various states and many writ petitions in the SC directly. These cases and petitions are by private medical colleges, states, and rather inexplicably, by student communities themselves. The SC has now clubbed the numerous cases and writ petitions, which were transferred from the various high courts and turned them into one, with hearings being adjourned every time.

With the case languishing in the SC and summer vacations approaching, the uncertainty looms large over the fate of all those PG seat aspirants who took the test. These aspirants meanwhile have found "jobs" "fellowships" or are just "relaxing and chilling" as one doctor who completed his MBBS from Lokamanya Municipal Medical College in Sion, Mumbai puts it. Under normal circumstances, the admissions would have ideally ended by now. Doctors appearing for the exam say that those students who won't score well this time will face a bigger dilemma, as they are waiting for the results and had they known the result, they could have utilised this time to prepare for the next Neet. "Also, the pattern of the exam for the next year is still uncertain. This uncertainty is taking a toll on the doctors," said Dr Anuraag Jena, from SCB medical college, Cuttack, Odisha. While some doctors seem to believe in watchful waiting, some are trying all things possible within their reach to push their luck. The matter is subjudice and they do not have any means to influence the case in any way.

Untidy situation

Hungerstrike, protest march, and certainly social media are some of the means the doctors have resorted to drum up some noise about the Neet issue. A website has been created, where proceedings of the case are recorded meticulously and also appeals of various kinds are made.On the Facebook page, one of the Neet aspirants posted, "Tweet on 14th April (TODAY) with #SAVENEETPG in it, sharp at 2:45 pm till it becomes a trend and breaks globally! Lets do it again!" (Sic). On April 12 another post read, "Today is the 2nd day of indefinite hungerstrike at Jantar Mantar. Join now!"

Meanwhile, there is a group of students from Gujarat, who filed a case in the state's high court that has now reached the SC. They have demanded that Neet be delayed by a year and the standard of the test be brought down to bring in a sense of parity for those who have studied in vernacular languages.What remains unclear is that why would students oppose a system, which aims to streamline the admission procedure nationally? In principle, Neet would have reduced the excruciating process of applying to individual colleges, keeping track of dates and taking multiple tests.

To my mind, Neet has been a failure. With the results withheld, hospitals will not get resident medical officers (RMOs). RMOs are the backbone of a hospital set-up. They handle about 65 to 70 per cent of the workload. 
— Dr Snehlata Deshmukh, ex-VC of MUHS

This state of affairs has come to pass because nobody has understood Neet... We developed a system that was supposed to have one national examination with one national standard. But private colleges don't want to be a part of it lest they lose an opportunity to make money by selling seats. It's a huge nexus. Neet was a step in the direction to fix these things." 

— Dr Gautam Sen, ex-MCI board member; involved in developing Neet

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