Nearly 100 candidates who resigned from PG medical seats allocated under KNRUHS and have now lost eligilibilty to further participate in counselling process have blamed the university for misguidance and demanded to restore their previous seats.

Two doctors walking on the roadIMAGE FOR REPRESENTATION/PTI
Delve Education Saturday, April 23, 2022 - 17:07

In the midst of several complications in the NEET-PG medical seat counselling process, many medicos in Telangana are faced with an additional difficulty. Around 100 medical graduate students, who were previously allotted a PG seat in colleges under Telangana’s Kaloji Narayana Rao University Of Health Sciences (KNRUHS) after the second round of state counselling, have blamed the university for misguiding them, resulting in them foregoing their seats from round 2 so that they can appear for the subsequent round of All India Quota (AIQ) counselling, called the ‘mop-up’ round. The All India Quota comprises 15% of total available UG seats and 50% of total available PG seats in government medical colleges. It is meant to provide domicile-free merit-based opportunities to students from any state who aspired to study in a good medical college located in another state.

Usually, the NEET-PG exam is held in January, and the counselling and seat allotment process is completed by March. But last year, due to pandemic-related delays, NEET-PG 2021 was conducted late, in September. The counselling – delayed due to an ongoing case in the Supreme Court – began only in mid-January 2022. Then, on February 12, the Medical Counselling Committee (MCC) directed states to revise counselling dates so that state counselling for each round is conducted only after the AIQ counselling for that respective round is completed. Apart from the first and second round of counselling, the MCC also conducts a third mop-up round, and a fourth ‘stray vacancy’ round. At the time, these 50 KNRUHS students’ eligibility for the AIQ mop-up round was in doubt owing to an MCC advisory, which advised students holding a seat in round 2 of state counselling not to take part in the AIQ mop-up round. However, the students alleged that KNRUHS’s advisory gave them false assurance that it would be alright to participate in the AIQ round.

The AIQ mop-up round counselling was eventually cancelled by the Supreme Court, and students who had previously joined colleges in round 2 of state quota were rendered ineligible for the fresh AIQ mop-up round. These students are now demanding that the state government restore their status and allotments from round 2 of counselling at the state level. They argue that due to confusing advice from the university, they have had to forego seats of their preference and will be left with few choices even if they participate in later rounds of state counselling. They have also alleged that Telangana completed the state mop-up round in a hurry, before the AIQ mop-up was concluded, further reducing their options.

Grievances with KNRUHS process

As the AIQ mop-up round commenced in March, the MCC on March 16 issued an advisory which said that “candidates holding a seat in round 2 of state counselling are advised to not take part in the mop-up round of AIQ counselling.” It also said that “the participating state authorities are advised that the candidates who have been allotted and joined a seat in round 2 of the state counselling may not be allowed to resign.”

Shekhar*, a NEET-PG candidate, was allotted a seat in a private college under KNRUHS in Telangana in round 2 of state counselling (after participating in AIQ round 1, state round 1 and AIQ round 2). “The state round 2 counselling was conducted on February 19 and 21, and the last date for reporting was February 27. However, the final list after AIQ round 2 was released by MCC only on February 28, which the states were expected to cross-check with before finalising their own lists, to prevent instances of seat blocking,” Shekhar said. Seat blocking would happen if a candidate is allotted multiple seats in different rounds, thereby taking away the opportunity from another candidate. While having reported to their respective colleges, several candidates like Shekhar still wanted to appear for the AIQ mop-up round, hoping for a better seat. 

Candidates who were worried over this advisory and were wary of giving up their seats in KNRUHS (from state round 2) for the AIQ mop-up round allocations, tried to reach out to the KNRUHS authorities but did not receive a response, says Shekhar. On March 19 and 20, however, the Times of India and Velugu daily reported that KNRUHS Vice-Chancellor Dr B Karunakar Reddy had said that these candidates can participate in the AIQ mop-up round, and will be allowed a free exit. A free exit is when the university returns the candidates’ original certificates without mandating the candidates forfeit their security deposit for resigning from the seats allotted to them, to participate in the next round of counselling.

Shekhar says the MCC helpline couldn’t address their doubts, as they couldn’t account for the exceptional situation where the state allowed candidates a free exit option, despite the MCC advisory asking authorities not to let students resign after state’s round 2. But assured by KNRUHS authorities, they resigned from their seats, Shekhar says.

“We were given a free exit option till April 1. Since the university didn’t advise against it, we took this option, participated in AIQ mop-up round, and got allocated another seat,” Shekhar says. By then, the MCC did not have a list of candidates who had joined in state round 2, and therefore did not deem candidates like Shekhar ineligible. According to Shekhar and other candidates like him, nearly 100 students left their seats in KNRUSH because the university allowed free exit. They took up new seats allocated under AIQ mop-up round, and even reported for duties.

But on March 31, the Supreme Court canceled the AIQ mop-up round as 146 previously unavailable seats were added to the pool. At the same time, the court also upheld the MCC’s March 16 advisory and said that state quota candidates who resigned from their round 2 seats will not be eligible to participate in the fresh mop-up round.

This meant that candidates like Shekhar had lost out the seat they were allocated in the AIQ mop-up round which was now cancelled, and were now deemed ineligible by the MCC to participate in the fresh AIQ mop-up round (after resolving the anomaly of the 146 additional seats.) Moreover, by March 31, when the AIQ mop-up was just concluded and also cancelled, Telangana had already completed a mop-up round as well as an additional round of counselling, which meant that many of the seats from which candidates like him had resigned were already filled.

Candidates have complained that apart from misguiding students regarding the MCC’s March 16 advisory, Telangana also went against MCC guidelines that states must conduct counselling rounds only after the corresponding AIQ round is concluded. They are now demanding that the KNRUHS authorities cancel the state mop-up round, and conduct it again after the AIQ fresh mop-up round, and after restoring the state round 2 seats. Many of the candidates have waited for years to prepare for the exam and get a seat of their choice. They have expressed worry that the seat allocation will not be merit-based anymore because of the state university’s alleged slip-ups, and that they will left with unfavourable options despite doing well in the exam. 

On April 7, the Supreme Court rejected a plea from students in Maharashtra and Gujarat who resigned from their state round 2 seats seeking to participate in the AIQ mop-up rounds. However, the court allowed such students to rejoin the state seats from which they initially resigned by 5 pm on April 9. Shekhar says that resigned candidates in Telangana sought KNRUHS to allow them to rejoin based on this SC order but weren’t allowed to do so.

University’s stand

On April 22, while addressing the media over the issue of illegal seat blocking in the university, KNRUHS VC Dr B Karunakar Reddy denied responsiblity for the turmoil that the resigned students are in. “The advisory was given by government of India to them. They have not followed the advisory and they have registered themselves [for the AIQ mop-up round]. University cannot stop anyone from resigning from their seat,” he said. He added that if the state mop-up round were to be cancelled, 652 admissions would have to be revoked, stating that would create a mess and depriving many people of their seats.

“For the sake of a few people who have gone against the advisory, I cannot cancel the admission of 652 students,” the VC said, adding that their list has been sent to the MCC and that they would get another chance under AIQ. However, Shekhar said that while their names were indeed sent to the MCC by KNRUHS to consider them eligible, it was only done so on April 20, whereas the deadline for locking options for AIQ mop-up ended on April 19.

Dr B Karunakar Reddy has said that the state Health Minister T Harish Rao has said to make an exception and give these candidates a chance in the next round of counselling, which is usually not allowed once a candidate leaves the state counselling process. “There are around 40 seats left and they will be eligible for those. But we cannot return the seat they resigned from,” the Vice-Chancellor said.