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Big poser: Who is NEET scam mastermind?

   By Vijay Darda | 17-06-2024

If even competitive exams fall prey to malpractices, what kind of generation are we preparing for future?

After the uproar over the results of National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) 2024, the entrance exam for admission to sacred field like medicine, it has been decided to withdraw grace marks. But is this the end of the matter? No! The big question is who is the real mastermind or Natwarlal behind this scam? Surely, there are not just one but many masterminds. Will they all be jailed or some unseen forces will save these culprits as usual?

It’s nothing new in India to hear about exam scams and their cover-ups, but when everything happens openly, it’s natural to feel enraged and doubt our system. On the day of NEET on May 5, the news came in that five persons have been arrested in Patna over allegations of malpractices. In Sawai Madhopur, it was reported that Hindi medium students were given English question papers, which were changed after an hour. The National Testing Agency (NTA) even admitted this goof-up. However, after the results were declared, doubts arose whether the question papers were changed by mistake or deliberately to pave the way for grace marks. Another absurdity was a physics question with two correct answers, one from the new book and another from the old one. Consequently, it was decided to give grace marks to students who faced question paper distribution errors and to those who chose the second correct answer to the physics question. There were 1,563 such beneficiaries.

When the exam results were declared, the candidates were shocked. Sixty-seven toppers had scored a perfect 720 out of 720. Among them, six students were from the same centre in Faridabad. Interestingly, each question carried four marks, so the scores should have been in the multiples of four, but some students scored 718 and 719 marks as well. How is that possible? These many examples clearly indicate malpractices, which is why the Supreme Court reprimanded the NTA, saying the integrity of the exam was compromised. This is indeed a serious issue that needs to be addressed. It has affected the entire country. Students and parents are stressed. I don’t have concrete information, but I heard that a doctor was so stressed about his child’s results that he performed the wrong surgery. Such rumours highlight the depth of the problem.

People now say without hesitation that the education mafia has held the system hostage. Every year, exam paper leaks are reported, but the real masterminds often go scot-free. If competitive exams are also falling victim to malpractices, what kind of generation are we preparing for the future? How will the youths, who enter the medical field through such fraudulent means, become competent doctors and teachers? What will they teach and what will their students learn? I’m only talking about the medical field, but other fields including engineering face the same quality issue. Numerous cases have surfaced where government funds were misused through fake students, teachers and buildings in primary education. Higher education is in a terrible state. Remember, when educational quality declines, the country sinks. The reality is that there is a severe shortage of skilled people in the country. As an employer, I can say that finding qualified people is difficult. You’d be surprised to know that TCS alone has over 80,000 vacancies because they can’t find qualified people. Similar is the situation in other companies too.

My question is what is the ministry of education doing? Prime Minister Narendra Modi should take this issue seriously. We are on the verge of becoming the third largest economic power in the world. For that stature, we need highly qualified people! Where will we find such people? India holds more than 17% of the world’s population, but how many of our institutions are among the top 100 globally? Possibly none! That’s why our youths are going to the US, Canada, the UK and other Western countries. In our country, technical education is expensive, therefore students are going to Russia and other small former Soviet countries for cheaper education, and to China as well! Billions of rupees are flowing out of the country. And what are we doing? We are undermining our youths’ future and nurturing scamsters. We are destroying education. I remember when Kapil Sibal was the minister for human resource development, he came across a case of selling engineering college seats for money. He ordered a CBI investigation and reined in those responsible. In the present situation too, the task of dealing with the proverbial Natwarlals in the field of education should be entrusted to CBI, otherwise we will keep humming poet Neeraj’s lines:

Lut gaye singaar sabhi baag ke babool se,

Aur hum khade khade bahaar dekhate rahe,

Karvan gujar gaya gubar dekhate rahe!

I want to add one more thing. I have had the opportunity to visit numerous prestigious universities around the globe and have noticed the names of several prominent Indian industrialists on the list of donors. It is puzzling why these industrialists do not take the initiative to set up outstanding educational institutions in India. Their contribution and backing to the nation’s education sector are crucial.

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