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Why National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (NEET) has become Controversial

The President of India Pranab Mukherjee has finally signed the order to put the National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (NEET) on hold for a year. After President's assent, the ordinance will allow the State boards to hold their own entrance test for admission to medical and dental courses for the academic year 2016-17.

The Medical Council of India (MCI) and Dental Council of India (DCI) in 2012 had introduced common medical entrance examination or National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (NEET) for the admissions in the undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in government or private medical colleges in India. However, due to several reasons, the CBSE and MCI delayed the exam by a year.

The NEET was finally conducted in 2013 as single test for admissions to all medical and dental courses in India, that Included MBBS, BDS and PG courses.

However, the test was cancelled when 115 petitions were filed in the Supreme Court against this pattern on exam. Following this, the Apex Court While scraped NEET and ruled that private medical institutions should not conduct their graduate and post graduate admissions on the basis of NEET. To this, the Medical Council of India (MCI) and the concerned ministry in the Union government filed a fresh petition for seeking Supreme Court's review on the 2013 judgement.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear the MCI petition to recall the NEET case afresh on April 11, 2016. The Apex court on April 28 turned down its own judgement, and decided to give its ruling in favour of a single common medical entrance test or National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (NEET).

The SC agreed on holding the NEET in two phases for the academic year 2016-17 and gave the option to the students who did not appeared in the first phase of examination, saying that All India Pre Medical Test will be considered as NEET 1 and NEET 2.

Following the Supreme Court's order on May 1, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) conducted the first phase of NEET in which at least six lakh candidates appeared for the examination.

This move was resisted by some state governments and minority institutions. They filed a fresh petition on May 9 with a plea to allow them to hold separate entrance examination for MBBS and BDS courses for the current year.

The Supreme Court rejected their plea on May 25 and ruled that private colleges would not be allowed to conduct separate exams for medical admissions.

After this succumbing to the pressure put by the state governments, the NDA government came out with an ordinance to exempt the State boards from the purview of NEET for one year. The ordinance was brought to bypass order of the Supreme Court order that directed that the NEET should be the sole criterion for medical admissions across the country beginning from the academic year 2016-17.

The ordinance was brought under the Article 123 of the Constitution that empowers the President of India to promulgate ordinances during recess of the Parliament. After the President of India finally signing ordinance the NEET or the common medical entrance examination has been put on hold for a year.

However, a fierce debate is raging in the country over the usefulness of the National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test. The argument extended in favour of NEET says that the test will help promote merit and curb corruption in medical education. It will also stop Illegal sale of seats in private medical colleges.

Further, it's argued that the standard of medical services will be raised in India as everybody will have to clear the minimum NEET cut off in order to get a seat. This would be applicable to even those applying for management or NRI quota as they too have to clear the cut off marks.

Those who oppose NEET say that one Examination means only one shot for the admission which not a correct criteria. They argue that if you don't perform on that particular day, you have to wait a whole year for a second chance. This is harmful to the students. This will put pressure and stress on the students and they will suffer due to NEET.

The positive side on this controversy is states like Delhi has made a decision to make National Eligibility Entrance Test (NEET) the only entrance exam for the admissions in medical courses this year onwards. However, there are state like Tamil Nadu that is not in favour of NEET.

The ordinance on NEET though has put a lid on the controversy for one year, but it is uncertain whether NEET will become the only exam for entrance into MBBS and BDS courses since 2017.