Web of deception: On NEET impersonation scam

What the embittered relationship between Tamil Nadu and the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) required was a salve, but instead things just got more complicated and murkier. The recent expose of what has come to be known as the NEET examination scam has placed further stress on the State’s experience with the exam in more ways than one. A couple of mails sent to the administrators of the Theni Government Medical College in south Tamil Nadu blew the lid off a scam with far-reaching consequences. A student of the college had gained his seat through subterfuge — by having someone impersonate him at the NEET. This turned out to be only the tip of the iceberg, and as investigators began unravelling the spool, more skeletons tumbled out. A number of students and their parents were investigated for possible impersonation fraud in the NEET, for operating with the help of middlemen to hire a medical student to write the test for them, for a hefty consideration. This, no doubt, required spinning a careful web of deception, right from submitting photos of the impersonator in the NEET application forms, to actually appearing for the examinations and single-window counselling for admissions, to submitting the application with the original student’s photo at the allotted college. Further probe cast a shadow on the admission of more students, including in private medical colleges. With the CB-CID tasked with investigating the case, bits and pieces of the puzzle are falling in place, revealing a multi-State operation. While the larger picture, with all its many nuances, is not yet clear, it is evident that fraud has been committed, and serious lapses in procedures and processes were exploited by students eager to score a medical seat by hook or by crook. They might have got away with it, but for an anonymous tip-off.

Given that NEET was intended to standardise testing for admission into medical colleges and ensure a certain minimum quality, such lapses erode the very core of its raison d’étre. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the National Testing Agency, which conducts the examination, must exhibit zero tolerance to such attempts to frustrate the integrity of the test. Both these agencies must immediately set their energies to identifying lacunae in the existing system and ensure that a foolproof testing methodology is in place. Using biometrics to identify students taking NEET has been suggested, and its value in adding a further layer of checks and balances is indisputable. Parents and students too would do well to temper their vaulting ambition for an MBBS seat with a measure of rationality. There are only a limited number of MBBS seats available, and while that number is slowly growing, it will never equal the demand.

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Printable version | Sep 22, 2020 11:04:40 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/web-of-deception/article29598184.ece

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