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NEET PG 2023: Medical associations mull legal options, back candidates

Lakhs of affected medical students who wanted the NEET PG 2023 exams to be postponed say that they are shocked at the Health Ministry’s decision not to delay the exams.

By Bhaswati Sengupta
New Update

The Health Ministry may get entangled in a legal battle with NEET PG 2023 aspirants. The medical students and associations have told The Probe that they are left with no other choice but to exercise their legal options as the ministry has decided not to postpone the NEET PG examinations.

The Indian Medical Association (IMA), in a letter to Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare Mansukh Mandaviya in early February, had urged the government to take urgent steps and postpone the NEET PG examination date.

Medical Associations Mull Legal Options

The Probe spoke to Dr Aviral Mathur, President of the Federation of Resident Doctors Association (FORDA), who confirmed that the association was mulling legal options and is open to supporting students who wish to pursue the legal route.

“The Health Minister told us his viewpoints on the subject. We tried our level best to make him understand our point of view. The outcome of the discussion with the ministry was that we felt that they were not entirely convinced. We are very unhappy with the decision not to postpone the exams. We have discussed the latest developments with the team. Now that the ministry has clearly communicated their decision, we think that the judicial process is one way to go forward. The candidates are mulling many options, and they have our full support,” said Mathur.

Mathur added that though the organisation has never entered into a legal battle in the past, it is open to supporting students who wish to move court against the ministry’s decision. “FORDA has per se never entered into a technical or legal battle. The victim should approach the court, but we have assured the candidates that if they decide to go to court, they have our full backing. From the data we have collated, we feel that more than 50 per cent of the appearing candidates had requested the postponement of the exams. All these students will be impacted by the ministry’s decision. There is so much uncertainty, especially for students, regarding the gap between the exam and counselling. Moreover, candidates who were made eligible in February should have been given more days to prepare for the exams,” asserted Mathur.

On 10 February, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Mansukh Mandaviya categorically informed the Parliament that the NEET PG exams would not be postponed. He was replying to a question raised by Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi, who asked the minister if the exams would be postponed by a few months as tens of thousands of students have been demanding a deferment.

“We have decided that students who complete their internship by August 2023 will be allowed to appear for the exams so that no university is left out of this process in the country. The exam is supposed to be held on March 5, and this was declared five months back. So, the students who want to prepare have been preparing for the exams. If I keep postponing it, we will be in such a situation that earlier it was delayed by seven or eight months. Then it was a four-month delay. Now... because of Covid, the entire channel was broken. It is important to set this right,” replied Mandaviya in the Parliament.

A day before the minister’s reply in the Parliament, The Probe caught up with Dr Anilkumar J Nayak, Secretary General of the Indian Medical Association. Dr Nayak said that the students’ future was at stake as the ministry was yet to resolve the issue amicably.

“More than 8000 students are unable to attend the NEET PG examinations from various states in India. While the NBE has announced the exam date for NEET 2023, it has not given any time for the aspirants who are doing their mandatory internship for preparation. Many aspiring MBBS students are yet to complete their internship. Many students approached us and requested us to take forward their concerns and plight to the ministry. That is why we wrote a letter to the Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, but we did not get a positive reply,” said Dr Nayak.

After the government decided not to postpone the exams, the agitating doctors have decided to approach the court under the banner of the Federation of All India Medical Association (FAIMA). FAIMA has also urged all other organisations to join them in their protest against the ministry’s decision.

“FORDA has been fighting hard to make sure that all eligible candidates are able to give exams and all the states are included in the process. We met the Health Minister, following which the date was extended to August 11. We were getting a lot of requests from candidates all over the country, and they were saying that they were not getting time to prepare. We urged the Health Minister to postpone the dates of the exams, but we are very sad that we could not change the mind of the minister,” rued Dr Mathur.

However, Dr Nayak, the IMA Secretary General told The Probe that the association does not believe in taking the battle to the court and believes that the matter must still be pursued with the government.

“I don’t think legal action will help us because this is a matter that needs to be deliberated and discussed with the ministry and the key stakeholders. The government must consider the students’ feelings and make the right decision. The legal process will continue for a long period, and this will only complicate matters. We don’t prefer the legal route at all,” affirmed Dr Nayak.

Lakhs of NEET PG 2023 applicants have been protesting against the government to postpone the exams by two to three months to close the gap between the announcement of results and the procedures for counselling so that they can get more time to prepare for the exams as the last counselling ended in December. The medical aspirants claim that the government’s decision has put them in a tight spot and is bound to impact their medical careers.