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NEET-UG Row: High-Level Panel Constituted to Recommend Examination Reforms, NTA Functioning

NEET-UG Row: High-Level Panel Constituted to Recommend Examination Reforms, NTA Functioning

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, June 22: Even as the Centre refused to concede the popular demands of many candidates for re-examination of the National Eligibility and Entrance Test (NEET-UG) for medical admissions stating that cancelling the May 5 exam would affect lakhs of students who cleared the examination rightfully, the Union Ministry of Education on Saturday announced a high-level committee of experts to ensure transparent smooth and fair conduct of examinations being conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA).

According to an education ministry statement, the seven-member committee will make recommendations on reforms in the mechanism of the examination process, improvement in data security protocols and structure and functioning of the NTA, will analyse the end-to-end examination process and also suggest measures to improve the efficiency of the system. The panel will also carry out a thorough review of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) of the NTA and suggest measures to strengthen them. The members will also suggest monitoring mechanism to ensure compliance at every level.

“The Committee shall submit its report to the Ministry within two months from the date of issue of this order,” the education ministry statement added. The panel will be headed by Dr K Radhakrishnan, former Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairperson and the chairman of board of governors, IIT Kanpur.

The other members include Dr Randeep Guleria, former director of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Central University of Hyderabad vice chancellor Prof BJ Rao, Professor Emeritus, Department of Civil Engineering, IIT Madras, Prof Ramamurthy K, People Strong co-Founder and Board Member- Karmayogi Bharat Pankaj Bansal and Dean of Student Affairs at IIT Delhi Prof Aditya Mittal. Joint secretary at the Ministry of Education Govind Jaiswal will be the member secretary of the committee.

As per the education ministry, the panel will suggest measures for improvement in data security protocols, evaluate the existing data security process and protocols of the NTA and recommend measures for its improvement.

The panel has also been tasked with making recommendations on the organisational structure and functioning of the NTA and clearly defining the roles and responsibilities of functionaries at every level.

Meanwhile, explaining the reasons for not cancelling the May 5 NEET-UG despite a raging controversy and an ongoing investigation of the paper being leaked a day before the exam, the Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said the leak affected only a limited number of students, contrasting sharply with previous incidents in 2004 and 2015 where broader leaks led to exam cancellations.

He said cancelling the exam would affect lakhs of students who cleared the examination rightfully. He also said the case was being heard by the Supreme Court and any decision taken by the court would be the final one. The Supreme Court is due to hear a bunch of petitions on NEET-UG examination on July 8.

Nearly 24 lakh students participated in the NEET-UG 2024 examination for undergraduate medical programs, administered by the NTA, held on May 5. The results were released ahead of schedule on June 4. However, a row erupted after 67 students scored a perfect 720 in the NEET-UG exam, and the NTA clarified that they had given grace marks to more than 1,500 students due to a wrong question and delay in candidates getting the question paper late which led to widespread protests and legal actions and cases filed in various courts which were being collected to be heard in the Supreme Court. The apex court has already strongly criticised the NTA’s handling of the matter.

The Centre has refused to cancel the exam as the leak is believed to be localised and only a couple of students from Bihar were the beneficiaries. A student and three other accused have been arrested and are being questioned in Bihar.

Terming the leak of the UGC-NET exam’s question paper an “institutional failure” of the NTA, Mr Pradhan said, “It is unfair to hold hostage the career of those candidates who have rightfully cleared the exam because of some isolated incidents of malpractice.” “We are in constant touch with the Bihar Police. We have sought a report from them. Once we have it, we will decide the future course of action. I take full responsibility and anomalies in the system will be rectified. Let us have faith in our systems and no irregularities or malpractices will be tolerated by the government,” the minister said.

In investigating the alleged paper leak, the police have arrested the alleged mastermind behind the NEET paper leak Ravi Atri who hails from Neemka village in Greater Noida.

Ravi Atri is known for his alleged involvement in previous exam paper leaks across various states and is currently in Meerut jail from where he was alleged to have managed to leak the NEET-UG question paper though his gang members. His modus operandi allegedly involved uploading solved question papers on social media platforms through a network known as the ‘solver gang’. Atri’s notoriety stretches back to his arrest in 2012 by the Delhi Police Crime Branch for his alleged role in leaking medical entrance exam papers.

The Bihar Police, which initially arrested several individuals connected to the leak, including a student and accomplices, expanded its investigation beyond state borders. Connections to Atri surfaced during interrogations, leading to his eventual capture by the Uttar Pradesh police.

In 2007, Atri’s family sent him to Kota to prepare for his medical entrance exam. He cleared the exam in 2012 and got admission in PGI Rohtak, but did not appear for the exam in the fourth year. Authorities said by then he had come in contact with the ‘exam mafia’ and was sitting as a proxy for other candidates. He also started playing a key role in circulating the leaked papers among students.




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