After high drama, President signs NEET ordinance before leaving for China

President Pranab Mukherjee signed on Tuesday an ordinance to keep states out of the ambit of a court-mandated single, all-India medical entrance test this year.
The President’s nod to the ordinance cleared by the Union Cabinet last Friday comes after high drama as Union health minister JP Nadda visited Rashtrapati Bhavan with a list of explanations on Monday. Ministry officials too answered queries and offered clarifications till Tuesday morning.
Mukherjee sought an explanation for the reasons behind bringing in the ordinance and reportedly consulted in-house experts before clearing it just ahead of his trip to China.
The ordinance is aimed at “partially” overturning a Supreme Court verdict that said all government colleges, deemed universities and private medical colleges would be covered under the single examination called NEET.
But the exemption to states is only for the undergraduate pre-medical and pre-dental courses, health minister Nadda said. The postgraduate entrance examination in December will have to be conducted under NEET.
From the next academic session NEET will be mandatory for admission to all medical colleges in the country and will be also held in regional languages.
“NEET, through this ordinance, has been given a firm statutory basis. The legalities are being worked out right now and it will be notified soon,” Nadda said.
All private medical colleges and deemed universities will have to take NEET this year. States will decide on their quota in private colleges, whether to fill them through NEET or state entrance examinations.
Quotas in private colleges — management, sports, NRI, etc. — will also be filled through NEET.
The Supreme Court had ordered a single medical test, benefiting aspirants who juggle clashing exam schedules and differing admission norms by private colleges. The test was allowed to be held in two phases — the first was conducted on May 1 and the second is scheduled for July 24. Nearly 6.5 lakh students took the first test.
But many oppose the NEET on the ground that students affiliated to state boards would find it tough to deal with a test based on a central curriculum and conducted in English and Hindi.
President Mukherjee too has his doubts.
Attorney general Mukul Rohatgi was at the President’s Secretariat on Tuesday morning along with top health ministry officials to respond to his questions.
Different states earmark anything between 12-15% seats in various private medical colleges for state quota so that students from one state can get seats in another state. The remaining seats in such colleges are reserved for domicile students. With the Ordinance, the remaining seats meant for domicile students will come under NEET.
More than 15 states were opposed to NEET and had raised issues such as different syllabus and languages during a recent meeting among state health ministers’.
Representatives from 18 states met Union health minister JP Nadda a week ago and informed that NEET would put non-CBSE candidates at a disadvantage as there was too little time left for students to bridge the difference between state board syllabi and the central curriculum.
The next phase of the exam is scheduled for July 24. Nearly 6.5 lakh students have already taken the medical entrance test in the first phase of NEET held on May 1.
Advocate Amit Kumar who represented Sankalp Charitable Trust, that moved the top court in support of NEET, termed the ordinance “shocking” and said the NGO will challenge it.

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