From next year, medical aspirants blocking seats in the centralised NEET counselling in the country may have to pay a penalty of up to Rs 2 lakh.
They may even be debarred from participating in counselling further if a Union health ministry proposal is accepted by the Supreme Court. The idea behind the move is to reduce the vacancies created due to blocking of multiple seats by students.
The Union health ministry, with the approval of the Medical Council of India (MCI), has proposed a “refundable” registration fee of up to Rs 2 lakh for medical and dental admissions conducted by the central government. The fee for private and deemed colleges is Rs 2 lakh and for government seats is Rs 25,000. It will be adjusted against the tuition fees if a student accepts the seats allotted, or will be forfeited, a senior ministry official said.
The ministry is yet to decide at what stage of the admission process such students will be penalized or debarred. In the first round, students are likely to be allowed free exit without any penalty to let them join a better college/course. The proposal is now with the oversight committee, set up to supervise the MCI’s functioning, which may suggest changes.
The Medical Counselling Committee (MCC) of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) conducts admissions to the all-India quota seats for MBBS/BDS courses in state government colleges and all seats in deemed colleges.
In case of MD/MS courses, MCC fills 50% of all-India seats in state government colleges and 100% in deemed colleges and in superspecialty it fills 100% seats in all types of colleges.
The apex court has to approve the proposal to avoid multiple litigations, which delayed some of the medical admissions last year, the official said. “Students with higher ranks are the ones who usually block seats at multiple places. The second and third rungs of students in the merit list are usually affected. This problem can be eliminated only if there is a combined counselling for all colleges at undergraduate and postgraduate levels,” said a government official. Over 30% of seats were vacant in UG courses in deemed colleges last year, which were later filled.
Currently, if only UG courses are considered, the state governments are conducting admissions in their own colleges and in private colleges, the Centre conducts admissions to the all-India seats and deemed colleges. In addition to this, autonomous institutes such as AIIMS and Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research conduct their own independent counselling process.
“With multiple processes, there is no mechanism to monitor the reasons behind students holding back seats. Students randomly select deemed colleges, despite their inability to afford higher fees. Such students unnecessarily block the chance of others with lower merit ranks, who are genuinely interested in those seats,” said the official.
As part of its initiative to prevent blocking of seats and avoid vacancies, the DGHS has proposed to start counselling for deemed medical colleges after state and central government seats are filled. Last year, counselling process for deemed colleges clashed with state governments' schedule, leading to confusion. Several students blocked seats in both places, and later chose the better one, leaving the other vacant. About 80% of seats remained vacant in deemed colleges after two rounds, which were later filled.
Kailash Sharma, director (academics), Tata Memorial Centre, said the government cannot do anything about seats that remain vacant due to poor interest among students or higher fees. “But such unnecessary blocking of seats should be discouraged through heavy penalty,” he said, adding that some of the interested doctors are still waiting for the outcome of a petition in the SC for an additional round for the over 100 vacant seats in superspecialty courses.
A parent of an MBBS student said students are generally traumatised during the admission process as they have to run from one place to another. “Students usually participate in admission processes in multiple states and also in the all-India quota. They are not sure about the outcome and sometimes are forced to hold seats. To have a blanket policy could be unfair to them. Having a single process could benefit them,” said a parent.
The ministry official, however, said the move is not to discourage students from filling multiple choices, but only to make realistic choices. “Despite 100% allotment, more than 50% seats remained vacant after every round for all-India seats last year,” added the official.
Pravin Shingare, director, Maharashtra’s Directorate of Medical Education and Research, said though parents can complain about the high security deposit, the amount should act as a deterrent for students who block the seats for deserving meritorious students.
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