Bihar: Covid-tied fallout threatens to shut out 8,000 medical interns
Dr Aastha Kinarivala of Gujarat, Dr Aditya Bhargava of Uttar Pradesh, and Dr Shivam Satyarthee of Bihar have two things in common.
One, they are junior doctors. Two, they all want a postponement of this year’s NEET-PG, the national entrance test for postgraduate medical courses, currently scheduled for March 12.
Each has a different reason.
Satyarthee, a medical intern in Bihar, says he will be ineligible to take the exam if it’s held on schedule and will thus lose a year.
Only those who have completed their one-year internship or are slated to complete it before May 31, 2022, can apply for the exam, according to the National Board of Examinations (NBE) which conducts the NEET-PG.
“We, all the 800 to 900 interns from Bihar, will be ineligible because our final MBBS exam was deferred by five months to August last year owing to the disruptions caused by the pandemic,” Satyarthee said.
“After passing the exam, we began our internship in mid-October. So, we can complete our internship only in October this year. We will therefore lose one year and have to wait till 2023 to take the entrance test.”
Satyarthee said the final MBBS exam had been delayed in several medical colleges in other states too — including Maharashtra, Kerala, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Gujarat and Haryana — and would cost nearly 8,000 interns the chance to take this year’s NEET-PG.
Kinarivala has a problem with the mere six-month gap between last year’s NEET-PG and this year’s.
In pre-Covid years, the NEET-PG was normally held in January with all candidates who would complete their internship by May or June that year eligible to take it. In 2021, the exam was postponed twice because of Covid and held eventually in September.
The counselling process for admission to PG courses was supposed to start in November 2021 but began only this month. The delay was caused by a legal challenge mounted by some students against a belated government move to introduce the OBC and Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) quotas for the all-India pool seats at state medical colleges.
Kinarivala, who appeared in the NEET-PG in September, said that by the time the delayed counselling ends, the next NEET-PG would be knocking at the door. Candidates who have failed to secure seats in their preferred branches of medicine or in preferred colleges and want to take the test again will have hardly any time to prepare.
“By the time we get clarity on our admission status, it will be the first week of March. Those of us who want to take the test (again) will have very little time to prepare,” she said.
Bhargava, who too had taken the NEET-PG last year, raised a different point that has already been emphasised by the Junior Doctors’ Network (Maharashtra) of the Indian Medical Association, India’s largest body of doctors.
The Network has written to the president of the Maharashtra Medical Council, who is also a member of the National Medical Commission, to defer the NEET-PG until the apex court delivers its judgment on the EWS quota. Conducting the NEET-PG before that, it has argued, will create another mess.
“Ideally, the NBE should wait for clarity from the Supreme Court on the EWS quota. This will also give the candidates ample time to prepare. We are raising the issue through different forums. We may even move court,” Bhargava said.
Satyarthee, who fears he can take the NEET-PG only in 2023, has another worry — a government proposal to replace the NEET-PG as well as the final MBBS exam with a composite National Exit Test from next year.
Satyarthee believes that the format and syllabus for the National Exit Test will have to be radically different from that of the NEET-PG, and fears that the preparations he and his peers have made so far for the entrance test will largely be wasted.
An email sent to the NBE seeking its reactions to the junior doctors’ concerns has brought no response.
The NBE notified the NEET-PG last week. Candidates can submit the application forms till February 4. The results will be declared on March 31. There are nearly 35,000 PG seats, for which about 1.8 lakh candidates apply each year.