Explainer: Why are doctors protesting delay in NEET-PG counselling?

The dispute over revising the income criteria for Economically Weaker Sections from the current cap of Rs 8 Lakh, is the crux of the delay in NEET-PG admissions for 2021.

Resident Doctors Associations in Delhi have been protesting over the delay in National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (Postgraduate) 2021 counselling. It is pertinent that we understand what precisely caused the delay, why students are protesting and subsequently how the protests have changed the position of resident doctors in Delhi.

What is NEET PG?

The National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (postgraduate) is a qualifying exam, medical students who wish to study Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Master of Surgery (MS) and Diploma courses in government or private medical colleges in the country.

MS Education Academy

The NEET exam replaced the All India Post Graduate Medical Entrance Examination (AIPGMEE) in 2013. The National Board of Examination conducts the NEET exam. The Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) oversees the counselling and seat allotment.

Eligibility Criteria for qualifying NEET:

Medical students in India, holding the Bachelors of Medicine, Bachelors of Surgery degrees, or a provisional certificate declaring the student as an MBBS graduate as per the Indian Medical Council Act 1956 are eligible. A certificate from the Indian or a State medical association, which clarifies that the student is interning or has completed the 1-year internship, is also eligible to apply for the exam.

Students who are Indian Nationals, but have graduated from foreign universities have to take up the Medical Council of India Screening Test also known as Foreign Medical Graduate Examination.

Reasons for student protests:

The Federation of Resident Doctors association (FORDA) led by the resident doctors in Delhi, are protesting against the unprecedented delay in the NEET-PG 2021 counselling. The protest began on November 27 with students skipping classes and duties across hospitals in Delhi.

The doctors threatened mass resignation while calling for the expedition of the counselling matters listed for hearing in the Supreme Court. To understand the reason behind the protest, we must understand that a plea was filed in the Supreme Court, challenging a July 29, 2021 notification by the Centre and the medical counselling Committee. The order from the apex court allowed 27 percent reservation to OBC and 10 percent to EWS students in all India quota medical seats.

The NEET PG counseling was suspended until the Supreme Court’s decision about the validity of the OBC and EWS reservations. On December 27, the situation at the protest site in Delhi escalated when the FORDA alleged that its members were detained by the police as they were about to stage a protest. A march was to be held from Maulana Azad Medical College to Supreme Court. However, the Delhi police denied that any such detention took place.

The dispute over revising the income criteria for Economically Weaker Sections from the current cap of Rs 8 Lakh, is the crux of the delay in NEET-PG admissions for 2021. The Resident Doctors Associations had urged the Union Government to convince the Supreme Court to expedite the issue.

Centre urges Supreme Court to expedite the decision on EWS and OBC quota

More than a month since the RDAs began protesting, the Centre on January 3 urged the Supreme Court to expedite the decision over the EWS and OBC quotas. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted before the court that there is some urgency and requested for hearing on the matter Tuesday. Senior advocate Arvind Datar also requested the court for an early hearing.

Justice Chandrachud pointed out that the matter was previously heard by a three-judge bench, and the other two judges are sitting on a different bench. “I will have a word with the Chief Justice,” said Justice Chandrachud. The top court also asked the Centre to share a copy of the report with petitioners.

On November 25, the Centre informed the Supreme Court that it has taken a decision to revisit the criteria of Rs 8 lakh annual income limit for EWS criteria and added that a fresh decision will be taken within a period of 4 weeks.

On October 21, the Supreme Court had questioned the Centre over adopting the criteria of OBC creamy layer of Rs 8 lakh annual income for granting reservations under the economic weaker section (EWS), despite the latter not suffering from social and educational backwardness.

On December 31, the Centre informed the Supreme Court that it had accepted the recommendation of the committee which had been set up to decide the criteria for the EWS and OBC students, and retained the Rs 8 lakh cap for the NEET PG 2021-22 admissions.

As the Centre urged the Supreme Court to expedite the judgement on the petition challenging the criteria for the EWS and OBC reservation for NEET-PG, Chief Justice of India, NV Ramana on January 4 said that he would list the matter for hearing on January 5.

Highlighting the urgency, SG Tushar Mehta said, “It concerns EWS of society. There’s a statement made by us which prevents further counselling of resident doctors…Resident doctors are protesting and their concerns are genuine.”

While it is unclear what the verdict of the Supreme Court will be, if there is one at all, as of right now, it is clear that the resident doctors are dealing with immense pressure.

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