The Supreme Court has ordered a common national entrance test for medical courses to be conducted in two phases, on May 1 and July 24, giving every aspiring doctor and dentist in India a chance to qualify and serve as a medical professional. The uncertainty over NEET was unequivocally cleared once again by one of the judges of a Constitution Bench on Friday. There had been fierce opposition to the ruling by some states on the grounds that it was too late to implement the order for this year’s admissions. But this was only on the grounds of logistics, which is probably the least thing to worry about. The court said it would anyway address the points expressed in the pleas for modifications to the blanket order on the conduct of Neet.
There are far larger principles to be served in trying to define how the best brains can be drafted into an essential profession whose practitioners will have much to do with shaping how competently medical care is provided and how best the general health of the population can be raised. Most other arguments are defeated by the fact that all the top court is, at last, ordering is a proper, merit-based, all-India evaluation of aspirants, including those eligible for reserved seats. This should have happened a few years ago, and would indeed have if not for the order of a former CJI on the last day of his tenure.
While meritorious students have little to fear from taking one competitive medical entrance test rather than several expensive ones — there are said to be as many as 90 being held around the country — those affected will be students of a system which has inured them to picking candidates based on their HSC marks, and not on the basis of an objective and analytical test. Reservation — in Tamil Nadu this runs to 69 per cent — will also be hit as quotas in the 52,000-plus seats will continue only for SC/ST students.
The suspicion is even if states may genuinely wish not to see the rural students too disadvantaged in such competition, the private medical colleges are seen opposing the reforms only because they would lose control of the admission process as well as the huge capitation fee racket that runs regardless of it being expressly forbidden. If we want doctors to serve patients best, it stands to reason that the opportunity should be given to the brightest students to take up a crucial profession.