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Cheers for state’s NEET job… …but move raises quality concerns

Bhubaneswar, Sept. 25: The state’s decision to opt out of the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET), a common all-India entrance test for medical admissions, appears to have come as a relief for aspiring doctors.

While the government is not willing to give 15 per cent of its total seats to the national pool and argues that Odisha students might not be able to compete with examinees from other states, it also thinks that those from elsewhere are unlikely to serve in Odisha.

The national-level test would be conducted by the Central Board of Secondary Education in pursuance of the Medical Council of India guidelines. After the exam, NEET will publish an all-India list and separate ones for every state.

Students of the state too, have backed the decision because it suits them. They were happy with the fact that the state would continue holding the Odisha Joint Entrance Examination (OJEE).

“It would have been tough competing with students from states such as Delhi, Maharashtra or Karnataka,” said Amlan Ashutosh, a medical aspirant.

His friend, Amritanshu Nayak said that since OJEE followed the state syllabus, it would be easier for most students of Plus Two to crack the test. “Each state is governed by its own teaching standards and courses. A centrally-administered test would have been unfair on us,” Nayak said.

Health secretary Pradipta Kumar Mohapatra said that the state, which was facing an acute shortage of doctors, required more hands to serve in rural areas.

“Once we accept NEET, Odisha will have to take students from other states in medical colleges. It is not in the interests of the state,” he said, referring to a recent government decision to engage medical graduates in three years of compulsory service in state-run health institutions.

Sources in the health department said the number of sanctioned posts of doctors in the state was 4,362 with more than 500 positions lying vacant.

“The state has reserved seats in medical colleges for students from the Kalahandi-Balangir-Koraput (KBK) region. Accepting NEET would have meant that all state colleges would have had to set aside 15 per cent seats for candidates from other states,” said L.K. Mahapatra, coordinator of Aakash, a coaching institute in the capital.

“With a single national-level test, most students of Odisha would have preferred to study in other states, which could have resulted in many seats falling vacant. It would have been difficult for the government to retain outstation candidates for the compulsory rural service after completion of their studies,” he said.

Titikshya, a Class-XII student of a city school, said accepting NEET would have restricted the number of options for aspirants as the entrance exams of every state as well as the deemed universities would come under one umbrella. “Besides, in an all-India test, getting a good rank is quite difficult,” she said.

But there are also people in favour of the common entrance test. “We would have to prepare for more than one exam. Multiple tests mean extra stress,” said Renuka Reddy, an aspiring MBBS candidate.

Saroj Mishra, mother of a college-goer, said: “This is going to hit the standards of medical education in the state. If our boys don’t compete with the best in the country, we are going to have substandard doctors. It reflects poorly on the state,” she said.