NEET Paper leaked: NTA chief shunted, panel formed for reform recommendation

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As the public outcry and continued political attack escalated over the alleged paper leaks and other irregularities, the Centre on Saturday shunted the National Testing Agency (NTA) chief and also constituted a seven-member high level committee. In a related development,  the Union health ministry said it has decided to postpone the NEET-PG entrance examination, scheduled to be held on June 23, as a “precautionary measure”, however the NEET-UG retest for 1,563 candidates will be held on Sunday.

An official said NTA DG Subodh Singh has been put on “compulsory wait” in the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) till further orders and while  India Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO) Chairman and Managing Director Pradeep Singh Kharola has been assigned additional charge of the testing agency till appointment of a regular incumbent.

“NTA DG has been put on compulsory wait in the Department of Personnel and Training. Former union secretary and 1985 batch IAS (retd) Kharola has been assigned additional charge of NTA DG till further orders,” a senior official said.

The removal came hours after the Union education minister Dharmendra Pradhan hinted that “top leadership” of the NTA is under the scanner and a high level panel was formed.

Mr Pradhan also denied any paper leak in the CSIR-UGC NET that was postponed on Friday. He said,“there was no leak and it was postponed because of logistic issues. I have already said there has been an institutional failure. I have taken responsibility. NTA’s top leadership is under several types of questions. But I have to safeguard students’ interests first. I am a custodian of their interests,” education minister said.
The seven-member panel will be headed by former ISRO chief K Radhakrishnan which will make recommendations on reforms in the mechanism of the examination process  improvement in data security protocols and the structure and functioning of the NTA and will submit its report in two months.

The panel also includes former AIIMS Delhi director Randeep Guleria, Hyderabad University Vice-Chancellor B J Rao, Professor Emeritus at IIT Madras K Ramamurthy, People Strong co-founder and Karmayogi Bharat board member Pankaj Bansal, IIT Delhi’s Dean of Student Affairs Aditya Mittal and Education ministry’s Joint Secretary Govind Jaiswal.

“The panel will analyse the end-to-end examination process and suggest measures to improve efficiency of the system and to forestall any possible breach. It will conduct a thorough review of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and protocols of the NTA, and suggest measures to strengthen these procedures and protocols along with monitoring mechanisms to ensure compliance at every level,” the ministry said in a statement.  

In the wake of recent allegations on the integrity of competitive exams, the Health ministry meanwhile decided to postpone Sunday’s NEET-PG exam and will undertake a thorough assessment of the robustness of processes of the PG entrance examination, conducted by the NTA for admission in post graduate course by medical students.

“It has accordingly been decided, as a precautionary measure, to postpone the NEET-PG entrance examination, scheduled to be held tomorrow — 23rd June, 2024,” the ministry said, adding that the fresh date of this examination will be notified at the earliest.