In 2010, the Board of Governors of Medical Council of India (MCI) proposed that a Single National Medical Entrance exam called NEET for all Medical colleges in India must be implemented across the nation. However, the decision was challenged by Private Medical colleges by filing over a 100 petitions in various High Courts of the country. The matter was combined into one unified petition and was adjudicated by the Supreme Court in July 2013. The NEET exam was struck down by the Supreme Court on July 28, 2013 in a 2:1 split judgement citing the reason that though NEET was good in intent, the MCI constitution did not empower it to conduct Entrance exams. Hence, NEET was not conducted in 2014 and 2015 and admissions to Medical colleges were done on the basis of various CETs and AIPMT exam.
However in a dramatic turn of events, the NEET was reinstated by a 5-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice Dave on April 11, 2016. The Supreme Court ruled that NEET exam shall be the Single National Medical Entrance exam for all Medical colleges in India including Government, Private and Deemed Universities. Only 2 Medical Colleges were exempted from NEET-UG viz. The Supreme Court stated that NEET would streamline the Medical Admissions process, eliminate corruption & high capitation fees culture and save students the labour of writing multiple Entrance Tests. The Supreme Court also clarified that constitutional, regional and minority quotas will remain unchanged and the only change introduced is that NEET exam shall replace all other existing exams. Between April 11 to 27, 2016 everyone assumed that the NEET ruling was valid from 2017 onwards. However, a clarification was issued by the Supreme Court on April 28 stating that NEET exam must be implemented from 2016 itself. This clarification came as a shock to lacs of medical aspirants, their parents and teachers across the nation as students had prepared for State-level CETs whose syllabi, exam pattern and level of difficulty are significantly lower than the NEET exam.
The emotional and mental turmoil that students and parents were facing was reflected in street protests and numerous headlines and media debates and reports across the nation. The broad theme of the protests was that NEET was a welcome move but ill-timed. There would not have been any hue n cry due to this decision if the NEET decision were to be implemented from 2017 onwards. But this decision to implement NEET from 2016 meant that students in States like Maharashtra, Gujarat etc. who had prepared for State-CETs for 2-years and were to appear for the CET exam were suddenly told that the State-CET would be null and void. Instead, they would have to appear for NEET exam to be held 2.5 months later on July 24, 2016. The burden to prepare for NEET in 2.5 months was too much for these students as the difference between the State-CETs syllabi and NEET takes over a year to cover. Coaching classes were puzzled too and so were the State Governments over the decision.
All attempts made by various petitioners to modify the April 28 order were quashed by the Apex Court. In this background, a concerted effort was taken by several media groups like Lokmat, Times of India, Indian Express, Sakaal etc. in Maharashtra with the backing of educationists (of which I too was a part), parents bodies and teachers and also political parties to create a pressure group on the State & Union Government to defer implementation of NEET by a year. This was a sensible campaign to relieve the undue stress on students appearing for 2016 medical entrance exams. A good idea must be implemented at the right time. If it is implemented at a wrong time, there are possibilities of the baby being thrown out along with the bath water due to the consequent opposition.
The State Governments held meetings with the Union Health Ministry and on May-20, 2016 the Union Government promulgated an Ordinance to defer implementation of NEET for admission to Government Medical colleges to 2017 onwards. However, admission to Private Medical colleges and Deemed Universities was to be on the basis of NEET only for 2016 as well. This was a welcome move by the Union Government to provide relief to lacs of Medical aspirants from States like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Punjab etc.
In another sensational turn of events, the NEET Ordinance was challenged in the Supreme court on May 24 by the original petitioner, an NGO called Sankalp Charitable Trust. The Supreme Court accepted the challenge petition but refused to stay the NEET Ordinance on July-14. The Supreme Court however rapped the Union Government for issuing an Ordinance which went against the Supreme Court ruling of April 28. The Apex court said the Ordinance was in bad taste and was not on sound legal ground but in order to prevent further chaos to students, the Apex Court wisely chose to not stay the Ordinance. This final judgement from the Supreme Court completes the tumultuous drama over NEET which was triggered by the April 11 judgment.
In many of my articles on this blog, I have argued strongly for the implementation of NEET across all Medical colleges in India. However, as events unfolded between April 28 and May 20, various voices and opinions by teachers, parents and eminent personalities were audible thanks to different media outlets of which many of them opposed NEET not just from 2016 but from 2017 onwards as well. The arguments used by them to oppose NEET from 2017 onwards must be analysed and rebutted if found specious. The remaining part of this article is dedicated towards this end alone !
There are 3 principal groups in society which oppose NEET from 2017 as under :
Now let us examine some arguments employed against NEET by different personalities who are apparently not part of the above 3 groups.
1. Rural – Urban inequality :
2. Vernacular students suffer :
3. CBSE gains :
4. State students lose out :
Thus, there is no sane reason to oppose NEET. From 2017, the Supreme Court has made NEET compulsory for all the Medical colleges in India except AIIMS and JIPMER. Students must take cognizance of this phenomenal change in Medical Entrance rules and prepare for NEET properly by taking professional coaching for the same.
The uncertainty over NEET is over. The time to prepare for NEET neatly is now.
Durgesh C. Mangeshkar