Who is the new NTA DG Pradeep Kharola?

As the NTA MD, Kharola will now report to the autonomous body's Chairperson Pradeep Kumar Joshi, a noted academic and administrator.
Last Updated : 23 June 2024, 05:44 IST

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Facing flak over alleged discrepancies in competitive exams, the Centre on Saturday shunted out National Testing Agency (NTA) Director General Subodh Singh and handed over the probe into irregularities in medical entrance exam NEET-UG to the CBI.

India Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO) Chairman and Managing Director Pradeep Singh Kharola has been assigned additional charge of the NTA till the appointment of a regular incumbent.

The Education Ministry has also set up a seven-member panel headed by former ISRO chief K Radhakrishnan to review the agency's functioning and recommend exam reforms.

It postponed the NEET-PG entrance, the fourth entrance exam to be impacted in recent days.

What is the NEET controversy?

The NEET exam conducted on May 5 whose results were scheduled to be released on June 14 but were released 10 days earlier on June 4 has been mired in controversy for a number of reasons including:

1 - 67 students scored perfect marks getting 720.

2 - Students scored 718,719 marks which is impossible according to the NEET marking scheme.

3 - Releasing NEET-UG results 10 days earlier on June 4, same day when Lok Sabha poll results were announced.

4 - Numerous NEET-UG 2024 toppers are from the same examination centre.

5 - Allegations of NEET question papers leaks.

6 - There was also a controversy over grace marks awarded to students to make up for the loss of time at six centres. The Centre later told the apex court that the grace marks were being scrapped and these 1,563 students would be given an option of a retest.

How did the Centre react?

After criticism from all corners, Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan had addressed the issue by saying that "some irregularities" have been found in how the NEET was conducted.

"Certain cases of alleged irregularities, cheating, impersonation and malpractices have been reported in NEET-UG which was conducted on May 5," his ministry later said.

"For transparency on the conduct of the examination process, it was decided after a review that the matter be handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for comprehensive investigation," the Ministry of Education said announcing the late-night decision on Saturday.

The Union Health Ministry also announced the postponement of NEET-PG entrance, a night before the entrance exam, as a "precautionary measure" in the wake of recent allegations on the integrity of certain competitive exams.

The move came a day after the June edition of the Joint Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and UGC-NET was postponed. The Joint CSIR-UGC-NET is a test conducted to determine eligibility for junior research fellowship and assistant professor and admission to PhD in science courses.

Pradhan, however, denied any leak of CSIR-NET paper and said the exam was postponed due to logistical reasons.

He also asserted that anybody involved or responsible for any irregularity in NEET-UG will not be spared.

The UGC-NET was cancelled on Wednesday, a day after it was conducted following inputs that the integrity of the exam was compromised. The matter is being probed by the CBI.

Who is Pradeep Kharola?

ITPO Chairman and MD Pradeep Kharola is the new DG of the NTA. He is a 1985-batch IAS officer belonging to the Karnataka cadet.

When the Centre was first looking to privatise Air India, Kharola was brought in as its head in 2017. However, the government's attempt at that time proved to be a misfire.

Kharola was appointed as the civil aviation secretary in 2019. He has been serving in his position as the ITPO chairman since 2022.

Kharola had earlier served as the Managing Director of Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation (BMRC) and during 2012-13 was the Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister of Karnataka. During his tenure, a private complaint was filed before the Lokayukta against Kharola for reportedly allowing pilferage of taxes during his tenure as Commissioner of Commercial Taxes in 2008.

An India Today report reveals that Kharola was also the head of the Karnataka Urban Infrastructure Development and Finance Corporation (KUIDFC) and a Joint Secretary of the National Administrative Reform Commission.

One of his most notable achievements include pulling out the loss-making Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) into profit in 2000, the publication reported.

Kharola also received the National Award in 2012 for his role in e-governance and the 2013 Prime Minister's Outstanding Public Administration Award.

He was born in Uttarakhand and attained a degree in mechanical engineering from Indore University, following which he did a Masters' from IIT Delhi in Industrial Engineering.

Kharola also has a post graduation degree from Manila's Asian Institute of Management.

As the NTA MD, Kharola will now report to the autonomous body's Chairperson Pradeep Kumar Joshi, a noted academic and administrator.

With DHNS, PTI inputs

Published 23 June 2024, 05:44 IST

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