With the Union Ministry directing the National Board of Examinations (NBE) to reduce the NEET-PG cut-off by 15 percentile, in order to fill up over 6,000 vacant seats for postgraduate courses in medicine that remain vacant even after two rounds of counselling, the views on how beneficial this decision will be, remains divided among the aspirants and veterans within the medical field in the country.
The NEET-PG cut-offs have been revised to 35 percentile for general category students, 30 percentile for persons with disability, and 25 percentile for SC, ST, or OBC candidates, according to the NBE. The testing authority revised the cut-offs in response to the Health Ministry’s instructions published on Saturday. “After due discussion and deliberations, it has been decided by MoHFW in consultation with NMC… to reduce cut-off. In view of the above, you are requested to kindly declare the revised result and send revised result data of newly eligible candidates,” said Medical Counselling Committee member secretary, Dr.B Srinivas in a letter to the NBE executive director, Dr. Minu Bajpai.
Students who are currently pursuing their undergraduate courses in the medical field do look at this move with optimism but worry as to whether it will go far enough by the time they are eligible. “Even though I am not sure if the decrease in cut-off is going to do wonders or not for us, I can say for sure that it’s a cutthroat field and there will always be students who won’t be able to make it in Medicine as even for a few numbers of seats there will more than a lakh aspirants regardless of the criteria being eased for the same,” said Gaurish Soni, a student who is currently completing his MBBS and underwent the NEET UG Counselling process early this year.
Amid the ongoing war involving Russia and Ukraine, a debate on why more than 18,000 Indian students moved to the latter for medical studies became a huge talking point. Many Indian students who studied in universities in Ukraine made their case that heavy costs and a smaller number of seats for Medicine in India are the major reasons as to why they have to move to Ukraine for cheaper studies. Indians who complete their medical education from Ukraine, like students from other foreign countries, have to attempt Foreign Medical Graduate Examination (FMGE) to be eligible for post-graduation and the ability to practice medicine in India.
“Even if I score good marks, as someone who belongs to the general category, I will be still at a disadvantage as attaining the desired college for post graduation will still be a distant dream. The cut-off reduction will benefit students who are poor in studies as it will only help in attaining passing marks, doesn’t mean that we are eligible for PG seats,” said Jaineel Jani who is in his fourth year of MBBS and wishes to give the National Exit Test (NEXT) exam, when he comes back to India, to be eligible for PG. Jaineel stated that with just over 22,000 seats in PG and more than 174,000 students applying for it, one can do the math on how many students will benefit from the reduction in the cut-off.
Individuals who have been involved in the medical field for years see certain loopholes in the decision. A professor from the Grant Government Medical College and J.J Hospital in Mumbai, on request of anonymity, said that most of the seats that remain vacant are from the non-clinical branch of medicine courses. “Studies that include the fields of Anatomy, Physiology, Biochem, etc. which comprise the non-clinical field are the majority of the 6000 seats that remain vacant as students tend to not choose those fields due to the lack of interaction they offer between the doctors and the patients as compared to clinical fields such as Surgery, Orthopaedic, Psychotherapy, Dermatology, etc. Though the cut-off is applicable for all the categories and fields, these seats are much easier to get,” said the professor. The professor also expressed his opinion about the future doctors who will benefit from the cut-offs. “Regardless of the 6000 seats not consisting of many clinical branch seats, it's important to add that the quality of doctors has taken a hit for a long time. It’s undeniable that the quantity of doctors has increased but they are not the best in the field,” claimed the prof who further added that another reason why seats go vacant is that certain students wait for a year or so to get their preferred colleges.
Harjit Singh Bhatti, a former president of Resident Doctors’ Association of AIIMS and currently the National President of Progressive Medicos and Scientists Forum (PMSF), said that it is an unfortunate situation that seats are still vacant despite lakhs of students applying for NEET-PG every year. “Those vacant seats have an extremely high cost attached to it, these seats can’t be afforded by merit or talent but can be bought through money. This is also known that most of the rich children won’t perform well in competitive exams and usually score lower percentiles, this laxity in cut-off will open doors for those rich students with poorer talent and merit to get MBBS seats,” said Harjit Bhatti who added that instead of lowering the cut-off, the govt should have taken those seats under govt quota and done counselling accordingly.
The cut-off for the vacant seats is being introduced in the backdrop of a constant criticism that successive governments have faced with regards to the smaller number of seats as compared to the no. of applicants for NEET-PG. Around 1.5 lakh doctors register for NEET-PG after earning their MBBS degree and a one-year required internship throughout the country for just over 42,000 PG seats. According to the NBE, despite the fact that the number of doctors registering for PG courses was more than three times the number of seats available, 6,266 seats remained open for the final NEET-PG mop-up round in 2021.