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Doctors, students and activists team up to lead fight against NEET irregularities

June 18,2024

New Delhi: Three days before the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET-UG) on May 5, some students received pop-up alerts on Telegram: “Leak paper available, price Rs 5000, message to buy @HQPaper.”

The Supreme Court has now issued notices to the Centre and NTA on these alleged leaks after PILs piled up. But RTI activist Vivek Pandey says he had posted about these ‘leak paper’ offers on social media platforms even before the test. “But it fell on deaf ears,” he says. On May 5, the day of the exam, Pandey felt a sense of deja vu.

But rather than just being happy with his I-told-you-so moment, Pandey has been spending most of his time filing complaints with the Union health ministry on the problems with NEET-UG, seeking updates from Bihar police about investigations into a leak from the state while also petitioning for action against the NTA in the SC. He had earlier filed an RTI seeking clarifications on the grace marks awarded by NTA which later withdrew them.

Discrepancies in exams are personal for him. He attempted to pass the pre-medical test (PMT) in Madhya Pradesh for nearly four years but always ended up in failure. It was only when the Vyapam scam-where students cheated on a large scale to pass the state medical exam in connivance with senior officials, teachers and many middlemen- hit headlines that he realised that he was trying to win a fixed match. Pandey eventually cracked NEET but decided to work towards greater transparency in the medical education system, , filing around 1,000 RTIs since 2016. Though no one paid heed to his warnings in May, they are paying attention now.

“When the ‘leak’ stories came out, we had a small group of 50 students who were disturbed by the reports. Now our support group has expanded to 4,500,” Pandey says, adding that there are lakhs who are now up in arms against the NTA.

Like Pandey, Kota-based educator and students rights’ advocate Dr Amit Gupta regularly posts videos sharing the plight of aspirants, amassing nearly 30,000 followers on X (formerly Twitter). Gupta, who completed his MBBS but decided to become a teacher instead, began his ‘activism’ in 2015 after the AIPMT paper leak. “I gathered about 2,000 students, and we decided that enough was enough. Every time the cheaters just get away,” Gupta says. The group held rallies and dharnas, demanding a re-exam. However, they soon realised that taking the judicial route would bear more fruit. Eventually, the SC ruled in their favour.

Since then, 46-year-old Gupta has been fighting for other reforms too. This year, after the NEET results row, Gupta began helping students out to file petitions. Years of experience in fighting legal battles have come in handy as his lawyers help students draft petitions and crowdsource legal fees. “If students take a single exam on one date with a single question paper in offline mode, there are bound to be leaks. Why can’t we adopt the JEE model where multiple question papers are prepared and exams are held on different dates online?” he asks.

Union education minister Dharmendra Pradhan has denied that there have been any leaks calling the allegations motivated. But the turmoil among students and parents has been hard to contain.

Source: Healthworld

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