Published: 21st September 2023
NEET-PG ‘zero’ cut-off: Money over merit; hampering of healthcare concerns medicos
Medical students and doctors are worried that the absence of a definite screening cut-off would promote commercialisation and privatisation of medical education in India
As per reports, the lowest score recorded in the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test Postgraduate (NEET PG) 2023 is minus 40 this year. Now, after the recent notification by the Medical Counselling Committee (MCC), even the candidate with a score of negative 40 will be able to participate in the NEET-PG 2023 counselling process.
This is one major concern that many medical students, doctors and other stakeholders have shared after the recent update from the MCC.
On Wednesday, September 20, the MCC released an official notice making this announcement, which came after several pleas for cut-off reduction from medical associations and students. While a few medical associations celebrated the move saying that it would ensure that PG medical seats are not left vacant, a huge section of the medical community shared their concerns regarding the notification.
How would a zero percentile cut-off affect the medical community? Here is what doctors, experts think:
Money over merit?
Medical students and doctors are worried that the absence of a definite screening cut-off would promote the commercialisation of medical education in India.
Dr M Keerthy Varman, President, Tamil Nadu Medical Students Association, told EdexLive, “By reducing the cut-off, they have enabled each and every student to pay huge amounts of fees in private colleges and enroll for courses. This is directly promoting commercialisation and private medical education. The way they have handled this is very unfair. Even if you have zero marks, you can sit for the counselling process. This is not a proper solution for seats being vacant, we are completely against it.”
Dr Varman suggested that the counselling process, after two rounds, should be given over to respective states, so they can fill the vacant PG seats accordingly.
Dr Divya Madan, MD, Paediatrics, also shared similar views on the situation.
“Having zero percentile cut-off means even the candidate who has scored -40 marks in the NEET-PG exam can pay the tuition fee of a private medical college and get into this profession. This cancels merit and enables 'money' as the basis of deciding who gets the seats,” she shared.
Another major concern that the medical community shares is how this recent development would affect the quality of the healthcare sector and doctors in India.
“When there is a high cut-off, it ensures that a well-prepared and deserving candidate gets the seat. I do not expect a student who scored 40 percentile to be just as qualified as someone who has scored more than 50 percentile,” said Dr Divya Madan.
Several people pointed out that reducing the cut-off percentile to zero eliminated the purpose and relevance of having an entrance/ screening examination at all.
“NEET exam was brought in to ensure quality admissions, especially in the healthcare sector. Just because there are vacancies, you cannot compromise the system. We cannot keep our country at stake. If they are reducing it to zero, at least they could have introduced another eligibility criteria. Let’s say anyone can participate in counselling but they should have scored above 70 per cent in MBBS final year, or similar criteria. How do you expect these students to save lives in future?” Jayaprakash Gandhi, education expert and career counsellor, told EdexLive.
On the other hand, medicos have also expressed that this would make the screening process unfair for the Foreign Medical Graduates (FMGs) who need to appear for a different examination for medical licence or PG seats in India.
“Foreign Medical Graduates have to give FMGE exam as a screening process to practise or pursue graduation in India, and the cut-off for that is 50 per cent. The passing percentage for FMGE is also dropping year by year and this year, it was just around 10%. This is very problematic for foreign medical graduates as you can get into PG courses with 0 percentile if you are an Indian graduate but on the other hand, FMGs will score 50 per cent in a very tough exam, even to practise. This has made the system more convoluted and biased,” added Dr Divya Madan.
Meanwhile, Advocate Tanvi Dubey, who has handled NEET-UG and other entrance exam-related cases in the Supreme Court, informed us that she has been approached by many NEET-PG candidates after the notification was released on Wednesday.
“The major concern of the aspirants is that first of all, the notification has been released abruptly in the middle of the counselling process. This poses a very big question not only for the medical community but also for the quality of the healthcare sector in general. We have these national-level exams to screen quality candidates, if that is not being executed as per norms, what is the point?” Tanvi Dubey expressed.
However, whether or not the candidates would take a legal route against MCC’s notice, is unclear.