Finally the Supreme Court upheld the requirement of NEET (Modern Dental College case, 2016). It observed: “When the primary motivation for institutions is profit motive, it is natural that many means to achieve the same shall be adopted by the private institutions which leads to a large degree of secrecy and corruption. As such, the mechanism of regulations as envisaged under the impugned laws is legal, constitutional, fair, transparent and uphold the primary criteria of merit.”
Now that the Supreme Court has given its seal of approval, one must decide what should be done next. But only in Tamil Nadu some of the political parties have now raised the slogan of social justice to resist NEET. The objections raised regarding the language in which NEET will be conducted have been answered by the Central Health Minister. It has been now decided that NEET will be held in 8 languages, including Tamil. MCI has clarified that NEET will not affect the existing reservation pattern adopted by various states.
Opposition has come from some quarters in Tamil Nadu that the syllabus for NEET examination will be based upon NCERT textbooks and the students who are following Samacheer Kalvi in Tamil Nadu may be disadvantaged. The problem in Tamil Nadu is that the students are not tested on their understanding about the Class 11 portions of the syllabus. In fact most of the private schools and some of the government schools, in order to increase the scoring of marks in Class 12 examination, do not conduct classes for Class 11 syllabus and straightaway train the students from Class 12 syllabus. This is the main reason why many students do not either get through the JEE conducted for IITs or in the NEET exams conducted so far for the 15 per cent All India quota.
Learning by rote in Class 12 takes its own toll. Recently, the results released by Anna University in respect of engineering examination for the first year showed that nearly 52 per cent failed. Therefore, there is basically something wrong in how we teach the higher secondary students. Secondly, since the last one decade there has been no updating of the syllabus, ignoring the tremendous changes that have taken place all over the world.
Instead of changing the syllabus on a scientific basis and testing our students on both years of study in higher secondary courses and preparing the students for competitive examinations, there is no use in alleging that NEET is against social justice. The assertion that poor students from underprivileged background are edged out of medical education has no basis. In today’s context, either the students get admission in government- run medical colleges, which offer about 3,000 seats or they do not aspire to study in any private medical college including those run by deemed universities. Even to study medicine in a govt. run medical college, one should have sufficient economic means for the purchase of books, equipment and other upkeeps.
In the last 65 years, if one looks at the medical admission, the courts have set aside the selection based on interview alone, based on regional or district consideration, based on rural and urban divide. The courts have also permitted private initiative in running professional courses with the assurance that they can get reasonable return on their investment. The Common Entrance Test to be conducted by a oversight committee appointed by the govt. was also not approved by the Supreme Court. The result was the consortium of private colleges started having their own method of selection and the deemed universities had their own admissions. A student who aspires to become a medical graduate had to write several examinations besides paying the necessary fee towards such bogus entrance examinations. There were large scale allegations that ultimately the payment of capitation fee will ensure admissions in those colleges.
The exponents of social justice who oppose NEET have not realised that for the 15 per cent All India quota in medical colleges, there has always been entrance examinations. Further, the NEET is not an examination for ranking the students, but it is only a means to test their knowledge in higher secondary syllabus and also their aptitude. In essence, NEET does not decide the admission, but it is an essential requirement for getting into medical colleges. It does not affect caste based reservations which are followed by different states. On the contrary, NEET curtails racketeering of profits by private medical colleges.
— The writer is retired judge, Madras High Court