22 Jun 2024  |   04:19am IST

A careless Government

The Congress staged protests across India on Friday over irregularities in the NEET examination and demanded an inquiry under the supervision of a sitting judge of the Supreme Court. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Thursday had slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the irregularities in NEET and the cancellation of UGC-NET. He said that Prime Minister Modi had a “mental breakdown” after the election and would struggle to run the government. However, the Education Minister defended himself at a press conference and announced a probe into the issue. “We will punish the culprits, and therefore we have set up a high-level committee to probe the matter,” the education minister stated at a press conference. The UGC-NET exam, which was held on June 18, was cancelled amid nationwide protests against the issue of paper leak in NEET and the granting of grace marks. 

Corruption and misadministration in the education sector has been exposed. While the UGC-NET exam was cancelled, the Union Ministry of Education issued a statement saying that irregularities were detected. Now the CBI has been ordered to investigate this exam, as it has affected nearly nine lakh students from across the country. NET stands for National Eligibility Test, and it is mandatory to pass NET to become an assistant professor in colleges and universities in India. After the cancellation of this exam there were protests in many places, including Delhi and Lucknow. Apart from the students, Youth Congress and Left party activists protested near the Union Education Minister’s residence and office and demanded his resignation. Due to all these irregularities, there is a demand for scrapping the National Testing Agency (NTA) which was set up in 2018, and which conducts the NEET and NET exams. Some of the students who appeared for the UGC-NET exam this year have expressed deep disappointment, as these students had worked hard for the exam. However, the NTA has not disclosed what exactly happened in this regard. It has only agreed that something has gone wrong. In fact, the irresponsible attitude of the examination bodies is one of the reasons why the problems of paper-leak and cancellation of exams are frequent, but no concrete steps are taken thereafter. 

The consequences of exam cancellations often affect the girls more, because many girls who want to pursue a career are already under pressure from family to get married. If there is a break in the career due to such reasons, they are afraid of being married off. When exams get cancelled, their hard work is wasted and their motivation literally takes a beating. While they conscientiously prepare for the exam by honestly studying day and night, the education mafias leak the papers and those with pots of money buy the leaked papers for a huge sum and clear the exam. 

Educationists have different opinions on the NEET debate. There was no examination of any kind in the country since the time of Independence till the implementation of NEET. Medical colleges were built in every State of the country at the expense of the State governments. When NEET was implemented in 2018 for the first time, an 18-year-old girl in Tamil Nadu committed suicide. She had cleared the Tamil Nadu State Board Examination in Class 12 with more than 98 percent marks. She was a girl from a poor family. Her father used to transport goods on a handcart in the vegetable market. She wanted to become a doctor and open a clinic in the village, but after the Supreme Court ruling came into effect, she felt that even though she had been educated in Tamil, she would now have to learn everything in English. She expressed her opinion saying, “I don’t know that India’s school system is based on inequality; there cannot be a level playing field in a country where there is discrimination at the school level.” She committed suicide on the same day. 

Regarding the constitutionality of NEET, some education experts say that while the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution would place the entire education system in the hands of the State governments, some aspects of education may be in the hands of the Centre. So why was NEET implemented without the permission of the States? That is why the Tamil Nadu government rejected this stand. A committee formed under the chairmanship of Justice A K Rajan by the State government has given a shocking report on NEET. It said that this has devastated Tamil Nadu’s rural health services, which were at a top position in the country before the NEET exam. Tamil Nadu government’s fight to get the Supreme Court to cancel the NEET examination is ongoing. The committee appointed by the government will now conduct a study, after which it will submit a report. The government will take a decision based on that report. Until then, what about the students? What about their wasted academic year? And, most importantly, who will give them back their lost hope?

IDhar UDHAR

Idhar Udhar