Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said a fresh date for the exam – which will decide the fate of an estimated 1.7 lakh medical aspirants – will be announced later
The NEET-PG medical entrance exams – scheduled for Sunday – have been postponed “in light of the surge in COVID-19 cases”, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan tweeted Thursday evening.
Dr Vardhan said that a new date for the exam – which will decide the careers of an estimated 1.7 lakh medical aspirants – will be announced later.
“In light of the surge in COVID-19 cases, the Government of India has decided to postpone NEET-PG 2021 exam, which was earlier scheduled to be held on April 18. Next date to be decided later” he said.
“Decision has been taken keeping well-being of our young medical students in mind,” the minister added.
#NEETPG2021 POSTPONED !
Health & safety of our young doctors is paramount.
— Dr Harsh Vardhan (@drharshvardhan) April 15, 2021
News of the postponement came shortly after it emerged a group of student doctors had moved the Supreme Court asking for the exam to be deferred.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde will hear the matter tomorrow.
The petitioners had said forcing doctors who treat COVID-19 patients on a daily basis to attend a physical exam would put thousands at risk. They also referred to the decision to cancel CBSE Class 10 exams, and postpone the Class 12 exams, that were scheduled to commence from May 4.
That decision was taken after an outcry by students, parents, medical experts and opposition leaders.
Over the past few weeks a similar outcry has been raised by NEET candidates, with “#postponeneetpg” trending online and a signature campaign set up online.
Earlier today DMK chief MK Stalin, whose party is a vocal critic of the NEET system, also spoke out.
“With increasing cases and fatalities, and when our doctors are fighting hard against all odds, is this the right time to hold NEET for PG courses,” he said.
Concern over holding exams during the pandemic – particularly when new, and potentially more infectious, strains of the virus are in circulation and vaccines (assuming students will become eligible) are in short supply – was expressed last year too.
Those sitting for entrance tests like NEET and JEE had protested vociferously, and approached the Supreme Court. The top court, however, said the exams could be held with strict restrictions on contact and social distancing.
That was when the country was reporting over 90,000 new cases a day.
Today that count has more than doubled – this morning over two lakh new cases were reported.
The National Board of Examination (NBE), which conducts entrance tests like NEET, had earlier been petitioned to postpone the exam but it declined to do so, pointing to safety guidelines that include having multiple exam centres in each state, and staggered timings for candidates.
“… Considering the importance of the examination in admitting post-graduates in their respective subjects for further training, it is in the best interest of candidates to continue to hold this examination on the announced date,” the Board said in its statement.
The centre’s decision on the CBSE exams – which impacted over 35 lakh school students – was taken yesterday after Prime Minister Narendra Modi met the Education Minister and top officers.
Opposition leaders, including the Congress’ Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, had called for the exams to be postponed, or held online.
Similar calls had also been issued by worried students and parents, who pointed out that children under 18 were not even allowed to be vaccinated.