Scrap the NEET! Support the student protests! For free education and healthcare! 

A serious student protest movement is sweeping India against the discriminatory NEET (National Eligibility Entrance Test), which bars thousands of aspiring doctors from university medical courses every year. Given the abysmal state of India’s healthcare system, this is nothing short of a crime by the government. Solidarity with the students! Scrap the NEET! 

The NEET is conducted every year for admission to various under/postgraduate medical and related university courses in government and private institutions across the country. The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government led by Manmohan Singh introduced a ‘one country, one test’, or NEET, for medical admissions in 2012. It eventually had to be scrapped due to protests from state and minority institutions.  

However, the imposition of a ‘One Nation, One Language, One Election, One Test’ agenda was a priority for Modi. His BJP-led government was able to reintroduce the NEET following a judgment of the Supreme Court in April 2016 that struck down a former ruling against a common entrance test. Previously, every state admitted medical students based on state-level entrance exams, or results based on final high school exams.

Every state in India has its own state syllabus-based education system. But NEET exams are conducted based on the CBSE (Central) syllabus, which is very different. Students from rural backgrounds and indeed the majority of students studying their state syllabus, find it difficult to clear the NEET entrance, although they would have scored good marks in their Grade 12 high school final exams. Their hopes of pursuing medical degrees are shattered if they fail to clear the NEET. 

Forcing a single entrance exam on all students in a diverse country like India, with many languages, ethnicities and cultural differences, has led to huge discrepancies and denies medical education to many aspiring students. Naturally, students from poor, working-class and oppressed caste backgrounds are less likely to pass. Those students who pass are mostly those who can afford to study in coaching centres, which command huge fees.

This situation has led to many incidents of suicide. On 1 September 2017, Anitha, a Dalit student from Tamil Nadu took her own life after she was unable to get admission to medical school, though she would have been easily admitted based on her state syllabus results. This triggered huge protests all over Tamil Nadu, calling for a ban on the NEET Exams, a discriminatory system that fails to provide opportunities to all eligible students. 

Corruption scandal

Not only is the NEET itself an unjust barrier to medical education, but privileged students from rich backgrounds have also been cheating their way through it. 

The most recent NEET exam was held at 4,750 centres on 5 May, with around 2.4 million candidates taking part. Suspicions about the results for the academic year 2024 led to allegations that coaching centres managed by BJP leaders received question papers before the exams. The claims are sound enough that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has taken over cases in Bihar, Gujarat and Rajasthan concerning alleged irregularities and malpractice in the conduct of exams.

This issue has led to huge protests among students, condemning the 10-day-old Modi-led NDA government. Student associations in Delhi, including Members of JNUSU (Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union), picketed the office of Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, demanding his resignation. In Gujarat, competing protests were held by students seeking a retest, with other students opposing a retest. 

Student leaders also submitted a memorandum of demands to the Education Ministry, seeking to stop PhD admissions through the NEET and also to disband the National Testing Agency (NTA). The NDA government was in denial mode, but the student protests compelled the government to appoint a committee led by former Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Chairman Dr Radhakrishnan to investigate, leading to the NTA Director Subodh Kumar Singh being removed from the post. 

The NTA has also formed a panel to look into the discrepancies in the award of ‘grace marks’ to 1,600 students. Further, the government had to cancel the University Grants Commission (UGC) exams and NEET Medical Exams for postgraduate courses. These rapid concessions are evidence of Modi’s enfeebled position following recent legislative elections, where he lost his majority. Rather than being satisfied, the students must capitalise on their momentum and press harder!

Down with the NEET! Down with Modi!

Competitive exams have only commercialised the education system in India, enriching the coaching centres, enforcing inequality and worsening India’s healthcare crisis. Modi government’s policies have helped to ensure that quality medical education is accessible only to the rich, to the detriment of all the people in the country who have to contend with a shortage of qualified doctors. 

The RC(I) (Revolutionary Communists of India) calls upon its members to offer their full solidarity and support to the student protests.

We say:

  1. Discriminatory exams like NEET should be immediately abolished and all students who want to become doctors should be allowed to do so.
  2. All medical education should be provided free of cost.
  3. New medical colleges must be established across the country on an emergency basis so that the lethal deficiency in staff can be overcome. We have already seen hundreds of thousands die during the COVID-19 pandemic as a result of this criminal shortfall, for which the government is ultimately to blame.
  4. If Modi tries to argue there is no money to fulfil these demands, we answer: make the rich pay! Expropriate the private medical institutions and Modi’s corporate cronies under democratic management by the people, so their resources can be put to good use.
  5. If healthcare is not a priority in this country, then this government has no right to be in power. The organisations of the working class and peasantry must link up with the students, to build the movement, and ultimately prepare a campaign of strikes and protests that will topple Modi’s weakened administration.
  6. A socialist India would invest the expropriated wealth of the capitalist fatcats to provide everyone who wishes to study medicine the means to do so, for free. It would invest in the improvement and expansion of medical provision to all, for free. That is why we stand for revolution! For an end to Modi, and the capitalist system he represents!

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