The Narendra Modi government’s decision to change medical and dental admission criteria from percentage to percentile had allowed less meritorious to get into colleges. It also enriched private medical and dental colleges, as richer students who were declared qualified bought the seats that were available.
However, it now looks like the file pertaining to that decision is missing.
‘File not traceable’
The Medical Council of India has stated in response to an RTI query that the crucial file pertaining to this decision was not traceable. The petition was filed in early December 2018 by lawyer-activist Dev Ashish Bhattacharya.
Through the plea, he asked for copies of “file notings, notesheets and correspondences, from initiation to the finalisation, through which the decision was taken to change the percentage system to percentile system for determining the merit of the candidates for selection into the medical and dental colleges through NEET.”
The petitioner also asked if any change was incorporated in the provisions of the Medical Council Act for effecting the change from percentage to percentile system.
In its response, dated December 19, the “Board of Governors in Supersession of Medical Council of India” stated that “since the file regarding change from percentage to percentile system is not traceable, hence the information/ documents cannot be provided.”
Police complaint insists file “intentionally misplaced”
Bhattacharya wrote to Delhi police commissioner Amulya Patnaik on January 14 demanding that a First Information Report be registered for “investigating and tracing untraceable government files at the office of the Medical Council of India as it concerns greater national interest.”
Making a mention of the RTI application filed with the MCI and the response received, the RTI activist said he “apprehends that the file concerned has been intentionally misplaced to prevent passing of information to the complainant about various illegality and irregularities being conducted to for determining the merit of candidates for selection into the medical colleges and dental colleges through NEET”.
He also stated that “as the concerned file is a government property it should be traced in the national interest.”
Demanding that the Delhi police register an FIR to bring the culprits to book as per the law, the lawyer-activist also demanded that the custodian of the files be identified and the files be reconstructed by collecting the documents from concerned departments.
'Percentile system gave admission to non-meritorious students’
The petition is significant because the introduction of the percentile system, which was supposed to keep non-meritorious students out, allegedly facilitated their entry into medical and dental colleges.
This was reflected in the admissions made through the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET). Till admission year 2015, the cut-off for admission was 50% for general category students and 40% for reserved category students.
With NEET being implemented from 2016, the cut off was changed to 50 percentile and 40 percentile for general and reserved category students respectively. This meant that the top 50% of all general category students and top 40% of all reserved category students became eligible for admission even if their marks were lower than 50% and 40% respectively.
After NEET, qualifying marks dropped consistently
So while till 2015, general category students needed to score at least 360 marks out of 720 to qualify, from 2016 onwards this requirement dropped drastically.
In 2016, the 50th percentile cut-off dropped to 148. This meant that even students scoring just 20.8% marks out of the maximum of 720 made the cut. In the case of reserved category, the 40th percentile requirement brought the cut off down to 118 marks or just 16.3% marks.
In 2017, the qualification marks dropped further to 131 or 18.2% for the general category and 107 or 107 or 14.8% for the reserved category.
In 2018, the pass marks decreased further to 119 or 16.5% for the general category and to 96 or 13.33% for the reserved category students.
Percentile system ensured a windfall for private colleges
The change to the percentile system has been criticised by academics and educationists. They insist that the system allowed non-meritorious students to pursue medical education to the peril of those they may treat in the future.
Moreover, with the total available seats being just about 60,000 across India and the number of students qualifying for admission being almost 10 times more, it allowed students with deep pockets to buy their way into private medical colleges. Thus, the scheme did not benefit economically weaker students.
In arrangement with The Wire