Karnataka

Karnataka NEET seat scam: Meritorious students roped in to block seats for small returns

Income Tax officials conducted a search at Congress leader G. Parameshwara’s residence in Bengaluru on Thursday. Bhagya Prakash K.  

A well-oiled informal network of agents and managements of medical colleges in the State have been part of what is now being called the “NEET seat scam” that led to search and seizure operations on two medical institutions by the Income Tax Department last week.

While seat blocking by some merit students, who take a small amount from the agents, has been happening for a few years now, the introduction of National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) has increased the seat blocking, sources say. With a vast pool of medical colleges available across the country, unscrupulous merit students get admission in one medical college, but end up blocking seat on the advice of agents in several colleges or deemed universities.

“Seats are blocked based on photostat copies of the documents and originals are returned. The lack of network among colleges is being used by agents and managements to block seats. If the student has already got admission, the other students will not know. On the last date, the students opt out of the admission process. In the meantime, managements through agents would have identified students who can purchase the seat and citing lack of time for counselling, the seats are allotted to those who would have paid,” said former principal of the Government Dental College D.R. Prithviraj. “A nominal penalty is paid by the student for surrendering the seat, but gets paid by the agent.”

Essentially, a merit student with good ranking is blocking the seat from being taken up by students with lesser ranks, but allowing those with capacity to pay more, another source said. Sources said that the donation for an undergraduate medical seat ranges from ₹30 lakh to ₹1 crore depending on the college, while the donation for postgraduate medical course can go up to ₹3 crore to ₹4 crore depending on the college and specialisation.

According to sources, agents acting on behalf of the management identify merit students who are willing to be part of the seat-blocking exercise. “Original document verification does not happen in the first round, but the students opt out leaving the seat vacant. They continue the same exercise during the second round and the mop up round too. In the end, the student has to pay about ₹4 lakh as penalty, which is normally borne by the agent. The student gets paid too.”

Sources said most deemed universities follow a similar practise, but the percentage of seats blocked varies. “The full amount collected as donation does not get into the books. The agent will get his commission and management shares a part of the donation. A part of it is accounted,” sources said, adding that a number of students, who end up being part of the racket, come from northern states where some of the top NEET coaching centres operate.

Dr. Prithviraj said that to overcome this loophole, a network should be created for NEET counselling, and an online mechanism to find out if students have taken admission in one college but are blocking the seat elsewhere.

“Online admission and use of identities should help break the nexus,” he added.

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Printable version | Nov 25, 2020 11:13:17 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/meritorious-students-roped-in-to-block-seats-for-small-returns/article29674934.ece

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