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NEET UG controversy: Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan assures no tolerance for malpractice or irregularities and action if lapses are found

Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan told reporters that apart from issues faced in just six centres out of roughly 4,500, NEET was conducted satisfactorily across the country

On Friday (14th June), Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan told reporters that apart from issues faced in just six centres out of roughly 4,500, NEET was conducted satisfactorily across the country. He denied allegations of a paper leak, but added that if anything is proven true, “no one will be spared”. Minister Pradhan assured that every aspect is being looked into, accountability will be fixed, and depending on the nature of the lapse, action will be taken. There is no scope for any malpractice or irregularities in the conduct of any exam, we will not tolerate that, the Minister added.

Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan added that the government is committed to protecting the interests of NEET examinees, and that concerns of students will be addressed with fairness and equity. 

Union Minister Pradhan noted, “Facts related to NEET are in cognisance of the Supreme Court. The counselling process will be underway soon and it is of utmost importance to move ahead in this direction without any confusion.” 

Additionally, on Friday, June 14, he met with some NEET-UG aspirants and their parents to address their concerns. Minister Pradhan reiterated that there is no solid evidence to support the allegations of question paper leaks in this year’s NEET-UG exam. He also dismissed the need to cancel NEET-UG.

On Saturday (15th June), the Education Minister explained that the reduction in the syllabus and the increased number of aspirants this year could have resulted in more toppers this year. 

Pradhan said, “In previous years, the NEET syllabus wasn’t cut down. This year we also aligned the questions with the state boards’ syllabus. Less syllabus and more candidates also led to the rise in competition and ultimately increase in the number of top scorers.”

Investigation so far ‘suggestive of a paper leak’: Bihar Police’s Economic Offences Unit

Bihar’s Economic Offences Unit (EOU), which is probing allegations of a paper leak in the NEET examination held on 5th May, said that its investigation is “suggestive of a paper leak”. 

Speaking with The Indian Express, Additional Director General of Police, EOU, N H Khan said, “We had asked a set of questions to the National Testing Agency, which organises NEET. Our team has just received answers. We may have some follow-up questions. We have been working on some contacts we have received in the course of our investigation, which is very much suggestive of a paper leak.” 

Notably, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Bihar EOU took over the probe from Patna police last month. The SIT stated that admit cards, post-dated cheques, and certificates of several candidates had been seized from members of an “organised inter-state gang”. 

Khan added, “Our SIT is now trying to establish corroborative evidence, such as who got question and answer sheets and from where, and how it could have reached the examination centres.” 

Khan told The Telegraph, “According to the investigations, the mafia involved in compromising the exam picked up the candidates a day before the examination and kept them at a boys’ hostel on the outskirts of Patna. They kept their (candidates’) original documents with them and made them memorise the questions and answers.”

“The candidates were then dropped at the examination centres to write the papers. Four such candidates have been nabbed so far and they have said that the questions in the NEET-UG completely tallied with the ones they were made to memorise,” Khan added.

Superintendent of Police (Administration), EOU, Bihar, Madan Kumar Anand is leading the nine-member SIT. 

However, the Indian Express report citing EOU sources stated that evidence recovered so far is not enough proof to confirm that there was a paper leak. 

An EOU source said, “The SIT has seized post-dated cheques, which suggest money was being paid by candidates to an organised gang. We have evidence that suggests question papers were burnt at a centre after NEET, but it is not enough proof to confirm that there was a paper leak. We are investigating the matter.” 

An EOU official said, “Of the 13 people arrested in the case so far, four are candidates who took the NEET. The remaining are their parents and members of the organised gang, which allegedly gathered 35 candidates before the exam at a school under the jurisdiction of Ramakrishna Nagar police station, and conducted a mock exam. They allegedly received the NEET question paper with answers there.” 

“Some remains of the purportedly burnt question papers have been seized from the school,” an EOU official added. 

It is important to note that one of the arrested accused is Nitish Kumar, a resident of Gaya. He was earlier arrested by the EOU in an alleged paper leak of the Bihar Teacher’s Recruitment Exam which was conducted by the Bihar Public Service Commission on 15th March.

Gujarat Police arrest five in allegations of cheating in NEET examination at a centre in Gujarat

Additionally, Gujarat Police have so far arrested five persons, including the head of a coaching centre over alleged cheating during the NEET examination in a centre in Godhra. 

According to the police complaint filed in Godhra, around 12 students, their parents, and a Vadodara-based coaching centre run by a group of teachers are involved in the alleged scam.

Notably, Gujarat’s Panchmahal district police are investigating the case of alleged malpractice or irregularity in the NEET exam held at Jay Jalaram School, an exam centre at Parvadi village in Godhra. 

The arrested individuals include education consultant Vibhor Anand and Principal Purshottam Sharma, who were found to be in collusion with the prime accused, Tushar Bhatt, the deputy superintendent of the NEET center at the school. Another key suspect is Parashuram Roy, an immigration agency owner from Vadodara, who was also involved with Anand and others.

As per the FIR, the attempted malpractice was “thwarted” on 5th May during a raid at the NEET centre by an inspection squad of the Education department. 

The police stated that four students allegedly paid Rs 66 lakh each, while three others provided blank cheques to Roy Overseas, a coaching center operated by Parashuram Roy, who is now in judicial custody. The investigation revealed that parents paid a total of Rs 2.82 crore to Roy, Tushar Bhatt, and Arif Vora from Godhra. Tushar Bhatt, a teacher at Jay Jalaram School in Godhra and the deputy superintendent of the NEET-UG 2024 center in Godhra, is identified as the key accused.

The police recovered blank cheques with student details scribbled on the back and parents’ contact information. They also uncovered financial transactions from parents to Roy’s accounts. The investigation has revealed over Rs 12 crore worth of transactions between students, their parents, and the accused. Rs 10 lakh was the rate for each student who wanted to cheat in the exam. The accused had planned to collect around Rs 26 crore in total.

Parshuram sent the details of 26 candidates to Tushar Bhatt, through Arif. Six candidates were taking the exam at one center of Jai Jalaram School, while the remaining 20 were at another center of the same school. The entire scam was exposed after the Godhra District Magistrate received this information. During an investigation at the NEET examination center, the DM’s team and the District Education Officer found Rs 7 lakhs in cash in the vehicle of the accused teacher.

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