Lame excuse

The Union health ministry’s decision to hold in abeyance the proposed National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) for medical admissions is unfortunate and retrograde. It was clear that the ministry was determined to undermine the proposal from the way it responded to the Medical Council of India’s (MCI) notification of a national admission test from the next academic year.

If it had then said that the MCI had no authority to issue the notifications without the prior approval of the ministry, the argument now is that there is no consensus among the states on the need for the new system. The health ministry claims that its decision is based on the views expressed by states at a conference attended by state health ministers and secretaries. But this is only a lame excuse because almost all the states supported the idea at the meeting and only Tamil Nadu seriously opposed it.

Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad’s view that students from rural and backward areas might not be able to compete with other students in a national test is wrong because there are adequate safeguards in the proposed system which will ensure that they do not get  a raw deal. States will be entitled to fill 50 per cent of the seats and all reservation schemes like those for SCs and STs will be abided by in the new system.

There is no need for states to feel that the interests of their students or those of any section would be adversely affected. If some changes were needed, they could have been easily incorporated.

There was no need to hold the NEET proposal, which has such a wide support, hostage to the views of a single state. The ideal decision should have been to launch the new system from next year without taking Tamil Nadu on board. There is no entrance test in Tamil Nadu in any case for medical admissions and the students there would not have been affected in any way.

Sooner rather than later the students would have found the advantages of a national test and the state would have been forced to join the national system. The way the proposal has been scuttled it is clear that the vested interests who stood to lose from the new system have had their way.

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