Tackling medical cheats

S.Madhusudhana Rao

Is India becoming a country of cheats is the larger question that emerges out of the Supreme Court’s order cancelling the All India Pre-Medical/Pre-Dental Entrance Test (AIPMT) 2015. The fiat, on Monday, came in response to a number of petitions filed by parents alleging large-scale irregularities in the all-India test conducted by the Central Board of Secondary Education on May 3. One of the serious charges was leak of test papers and ‘external’ help to students seeking medical admissions.

S.Madhusudhana Rao

S.Madhusudhana Rao

This phenomenon is not new. At the beginning of every academic year, entrance test results or admission procedures in professional colleges, particularly medical and engineering, are challenged in one state or the other over alleged irregularities. But this is the first time that the apex court has cancelled an all-India test affecting the future of 6.3 lakh medical aspirants.

The results were due to be announced on June 5; but had been stayed by the Supreme Court pending a decision that was delivered on June 15. Now, the court has ordered the CBSE Board to re-hold the test within four weeks. While the Board has expressed its inability to re-conduct the AIPMT and prepared to challenge the apex court order, lakhs of students who had written the test have been left high and dry.

The two scenarios staring the aspirants in their faces are, either they have to restart preparing for the tough test or join some other course not to forgo an academic year. That means waste of money, time and effort. More importantly, the students will lose all the enthusiasm they had while preparing for the first time.

Who is responsible for letting down lakhs of hopefuls and throwing their future into the limbo? It has been established that some gangs have been running well-organised rackets providing answers to questions in pan-India entrance exams using sophisticated gadgets and advanced communication equipment. In the AIPMT test, a tip-off to Haryana police in Rohtak had helped them find the tip of the scam iceberg and their swoop on suspects cracked open the racket and the crooks’ modus operandi. Subsequently, 29 cases of malpractices had come to the notice of CBSE Board. Of these, high-end gadgets were found to have been used in 21 incidents by agents stationed outside the exam centres to pass on the test papers’ key to examinees. While the hunt is on for the mastermind of Rohtak operation, the latest all-India medical entrance test has opened a Pandora’s Box.

For the last many years, education boards and departments in various states have been fighting to arrest an increasing trend of rigging, rampant copying, swapping of answer sheets, impersonation and other malpractices students –sometimes with the help of invigilators – are indulging to pass the exam. Thus cheating has become an easy option to earn a degree or admission to medical or engineering course. In other words, duping has turned out to be a short cut to success in life for some. And, not surprisingly, it will begin at the exam hall.

However, over the years, medical course admissions have turned out to be fault lines of exam malpractices. The reason is simple: Demand and supply. The total number of medical colleges in the country is 398 with an annual intake of a little over 50,000 students. Naturally, the competition will be cut-throat and the odds of securing a seat are extremely high. Cases of parents going to any length to get admissions for their wards are not rare. Such a scenario provides a fertile ground for crooks and cheats to cash in on the desperation of aspiring doctors and their parents.

A case in point is the 2015 AIPMT test. The number of seats available for over 6 lakh MBBS aspirants is a mere 2000 or 15 per cent of the total. The rest of 85 per cent seats are reserved for students coming through state boards. Year after year, the humongous demand-availability gap has only been growing without the problem being addressed.

While resolving the medical education problems in the country is a long-term solution to improve healthcare standards, the immediate need is to arrest the MBBS entrance test malpractices both at states’ and national level. While stringent and exemplary punishments for racketeers could act as a deterrent, what is called for are pre-emptive measures and actions by education and police authorities. More importantly, the students who are found guilty of cheating in whatever manner should be barred for life from sitting for medical entrance tests and their parents who are privy to exam malpractices should be named and shamed.

Only such harsh punishments will teach them a lesson. Otherwise, there is a danger of undeserving people becoming doctors and putting people’s lives at risk. At the same time, a significant point not to be overlooked in such cases is a deserving, meritorious and studious candidate may lose his seat because of a cheat. Such injustice is reprehensible.

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