‘Highly unethical’: Revised guidelines for NEET-PG counselling met with shock, anger

This year’s NEET-PG counselling has been marred by a lack of clarity regarding seat allotment in the various rounds of counselling, putting several tired aspirants on the razor’s edge.

The Medical Counselling Committee (MCC), in the last-minute of the second round of counselling, came up with a notice that prevented several students from applying to Deemed and Central Universities. Accordingly, changes were made in the FAQs put up by the MCC. Until then there was no clear-cut intimation from the MCC on this matter.

MCC counselling and seat allotment

Under All-India Counselling, a candidate is eligible to apply for four different seats, namely, 50% of the All-India Quota seats (AIQ) of all state government medical colleges, all PG seats of Deemed Universities, 50% institutional quota seats of Central Universities and a few seats of Armed Forces Medical Services.

Those who don’t get a seat in Round 1 or want to upgrade their allotted seat from the first round, move on to the second round of counselling.

This year, PG aspirants who were to give their options in both Round 1 and Round 2 could not do so in Round 2 because of the last-minute restrictions put in place by the MCC. Many students had not opted for Deemed Universities as an option in Round 1 as they did not want to pay the Rs 2 lakh registration fee. Their hopes of applying to a Deemed University later were dashed as the MCC suddenly intimated aspirants that if they had not opted for Deemed Universities in Round 1, they could not do so later.

The MCC had given no intimation on this matter before the Round 1 counselling.

However, candidates who haven’t been allotted a college in Rounds 1 and 2 of counselling are eligible for the Mop-up Round for Deemed Universities.

This has left many students disappointed.

“We got better ranks than those who got into the Deemed Universities in the first round. Now we are barred from registering for these Deemed Universities, even though we are ready to pay for them. Until last year, we had equal chances for registration in all the colleges. This year, because of separate registration, our choices are limited,” Dr Sana, a PG aspirant, told TNM.

Some aggrieved students have now approached the court for relief.

“There were many amendments in the old gazette, which were not followed by the MCC this year. We (the disgruntled students) have filed a blanket case against the MCC at the Supreme Court. Also, we have issued a writ to MCC directing them to permit the students to register for Deemed University counselling, irrespective of the fact that they have not registered for it in the first round,” added Sana.

What went wrong?

The Round 1 of all-India counselling started at the end of March, with the results published on 28 March, and the revised results published on 29 March. Round 2 of the counselling began on April 11. Many candidates who applied only for AIQ seats in Round 1 were unable to register for Deemed University counselling in Round 2. The MCC had never posted any intimation on this matter previously on the website, and neither was it mentioned in any of the FAQs they had provided…

Priyadarshan*, the father of a PG aspirant, told TNM, “After careful consideration, some candidates like my daughter wanted to try their luck for Deemed University counselling in Round 2 if they fail to get a seat under AIQ quota in Round 1, as they didn’t want us to pay such a great sum of money straight away.”

Meenakshi*, a PG aspirant, said, “For two whole days – April 11 and 12 – we emailed the MCC and calling their offices, but in vain. The helpline number they provided on the website just connects to a call centre, whose employees’ hands are tied – they sympathized with us, but they told us they can’t do anything about it unless they get the official order. We tried calling the MCC office numbers provided, but it wasn’t going through for any of us. As the deadline for registration – 5 pm of April 12 approached – many of us started panicking and wondering if all our efforts are lost.”

She remembered the shock and disappointment she felt when she found out the new MCC notice. She says, “Around 4 pm, the MCC puts up a notice stating that candidates who applied only for AIQ seats in Round 1 cannot apply for Deemed/Central University seats in Round 2, as there is no option for the fresh registration of such candidates.”

Her father added, “This is highly unethical and unfair. Thousands of candidates have dropped a year after MBBS and worked hard for this one exam to get a PG seat of our choice.”

Meenakshi claimed that there are candidates who did not register for any seat — AIQ/ Deemed/ Central/ AFMS — in the first round. However, in the second round, they were able to register and give any choice that they want to. “This is grossly unfair,” says Meenakshi.

The struggles to get a PG seat

Most candidates start preparing for the NEET-PG exam from the start of their internship, and some even start from the second year of MBBS. “Joining a coaching centre and attending lectures during internships is extremely tiresome. Interns attend lectures after working 12-18 hours at the hospital, exhausted after doing the rounds with senior doctors, arranging scans and blood investigations for patients, delivering babies and resuscitating critically ill patients. Despite all their efforts, they find time to study the notes they made for the NEET-PG exam,” said Meenakshi.

She added, “After the internship, a majority decide to drop a year and toil at home, thinking that their preparation is not good enough to get them their dream PG seat straight after their internship. They study for a minimum of 12-14 hours daily at their homes and libraries to cover the 19 subjects that make-up the MBBS course. For 9-12 months after their internships, they prepare for the NEET-PG exam, which is a one-day exam conducted all over India, which contains 300 multiple-choice based questions with negative marking to be answered within three hours.”

What makes NEET-PG way more difficult than the NEET exam to enter MBBS is that the ranking in NEET-PG determines which specialization and college the student is most likely to get for PG, unlike the NEET exam for which the student’s rank just determines the college they go to. Some candidates drop 4-5 years together before appearing for the NEET-PG, preferring to serve in hospitals and clinics till they feel they have earned enough to pay for their PG course fees on their own.