All candidates who took the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) in Tamil will be awarded 196 grace marks by the CBSE. This order was given by the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court as one-third of the questions in the Tamil paper were wrong or vaguely worded due to mistranslation.
This means that the rank list of students will have to be revised, taking into consideration the new marks of Tamil medium students – 24,000 of whom wrote NEET in 2018.
This judgment is likely to affect a large number of students in terms of the rank list for the state. The NEET cut off this year was 119 for students from the general category, and 96 for SC, ST and OBC students. With the grace marks added, many Tamil medium students may become eligible for government institutes.
With all Tamil medium students getting 196 grace marks – four marks for each of the 49 questions that were mistranslated – all students who got more than -77 marks in the general category, and more than -100 marks in the reserved categories, will clear the cut-off.
This order, however, comes after the first round of counselling for medical admission has been completed in Tamil Nadu, and the second round of counselling is underway. Tamil Nadu has 3,328 medical seats in government and private medical colleges under the state quota. Apart from this, there are 516 seats for students under management quota. Over 2,447 students have already been admitted to 22 government medical colleges in the first round of counselling.
So what happens to those students who have already been admitted to colleges if the rank list is revised? Will the counselling process be suspended and restarted once the new rank list is announced? Government officials seem unsure.
NEET Selection Committee Chairman G Selvarajan tells TNM, “The judgement has just come. We have to speak with the government to see that has to be done.”
After the judgement came in, CPI (M) MP TK Rangarajan – the petitioner in the case – told TNM that students who are aggrieved by NEET’s mistranslation had been vindicated. “The court has asked for 4 grace marks to be given per mistranslated question which is 196 marks for 49 questions. As I am an MP, members of the Students Federation of India and many others had approached me and so I decided to go to court,” Rangarajan said.
Considering the seriousness of the order, critics say that the TN government and CBSE should have waited for the court’s order on the petition before starting the admissions process – especially since the court had already pulled up both institutions over the mistranslations in one-third of the question paper earlier.
The court issued a notice to both CBSE and the TN government back in June, and later said, “Why is there an ambiguity? If there is a Tamil version of the NEET question paper, why should the Tamil medium students rely on the English version of the questions.”
“This (ambiguity in translation) seems to be an escape clause on the cost of the students,” the Judges reportedly said, and asked why Tamil medium students were being judged on their proficiency in English.
The question paper and other factors including access to NEET coaching has predominantly affected the performance of students from government schools – data released by the Health Minister C Vijayabaskar earlier in the Assembly showed that students from government and government-aided schools in the state fared badly in the medical and dental entrance exams. Only 3% of those who qualified from Tamil Nadu studied at government or aided schools.
In Tamil Nadu, 1,14,602 students gave the NEET this year, of whom 45,336 students (39.6%) qualified. Of the 1.14 lakh students who gave the exam though, only 9154 were from TN government and aided schools – and only 1,337 of them qualified. That is, only 14.6% of medical aspirants from government and aided schools made it through, compared to 41.72% students from private schools.