NEET row: Govt sets up high-level committee to overhaul exam processes amidst paper leak controversies

In the face of criticism, including from the ABVP – the student wing of the RSS – over UGC-NET cancellation and alleged paper leaks in NEET, the Education Ministry on Saturday set up a high-level committee of experts to ensure transparent and fair conduct of such competitive examinations. Reconstituting the apex testing agency will also be carried out.

The seven-member committee, to be headed by former ISRO Chairman, K Radhakrishnan, will submit a report in two months.

The panel was formed hours after the notification of the Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Act, 2024, which provides for up to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to ₹1 crore for malpractices and organised cheating in exams.”

The Act comes into effect from June 21 thereby bringing those found guilty in the current instances of paper leak and other alleged irregularities, under its ambit.

Also read: 74 students scored centum in NEET UG since inception, 91% of them cleared the exam in 2024

Committee members also include Randeep Guleria, former Director, AIIMS Delhi, and Govind Jaiswal, Joint Secretary, Education Ministry. Jaiswal will be the Member Secretary. There are three other experts from various premier educational institutes that include, BJ Rao, Vice-Chancellor, Central University of Hyderabad; Ramamurthy K, Professor Emeritus, Department of Civil Engineering, IIT Madras, and Aditya Mittal, Dean Student Affairs, IIT Delhi.

Pankaj Bansal, Co-Founder, People Strong and Board Member, Karmayogi Bharat, is the seventh member.

Reforming The Exam Process

According to the terms of reference, the seven-member committee will make recommendations on reforming the examination process, improvement in data security protocols, and re-work on the structure and functioning of the National Testing Agency (NTA).

Incidentally, NTA, which conducts these competitive and other admission exams in the country, has been under-fire over the alleged paper leaks and other irregularities. The concerns have sparked country-wide protests by students, their parents, political party workers and others.

The UGC-NET, an entrance exam for assistant professors and junior research fellows, was cancelled after the paper was leaked on the dark web. Similarly, in the case of NEET, a medical college entrance exam taken by approximately 24 lakh aspirants, there were alleged paper leaks reported from Patna, where arrests have been made. Investigations are also reportedly underway in Deoghar.

The committee will analyse “end-to-end examination process to forestall any possible breach”; conduct a review of the standard operating procedures and protocols of the NTA and also “suggest measures to strengthen these procedures”.

It will also examine existing security protocols related to the paper-setting and other processes for different examinations.

The committee will also recommend re-working the organisational structure and functioning of the NTA. And “clearly define roles and responsibilities of functionaries at every level”, the Ministry document said. Assessment of the current Grievance Redressal Mechanism of the NTA will be carried out for identifying gaps and “enhancing efficiency”.

Congress leader, Jairam Ramesh, took on the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre calling its recent notification of the Public Examinations (Prevention and Unfair Means) Bill as “damage control” and that the core issue of preventing paper leaks remains unaddressed..

“Clearly this is damage control to deal with NEET….and other scams. This law was nedded, But it deals with leaks after they have occurred. More important are laws, systems, processes and procedures to ensure that leaks don’t happen in the first place,” he wrote on social media platform X.

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