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Explained: Why has NEET-PG 2022 been postponed?

NEET-PG 2022, which was scheduled for March 12, has been pushed back by six to eight weeks. Why is there a delay? What are the challenges with pushing the dates?

Written by Anonna Dutt , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: February 6, 2022 2:49:49 pm
NEET PG 2022, NEET PG 2022 PostponedStudies appear for the NEET examination in New Delhi in September 2021. (Express Photo: Abhinav Saha)

The National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (postgraduate) (NEET-PG) 2022, which was scheduled for March 12, has been pushed back by six to eight weeks. From doctors taking to the street demanding that the NEET-PG counselling for 2021 be expedited, to MBBS doctors going to court to delay the exams for the next year, the nuances can be confusing. Here is a lowdown.

Why did doctors protest over delay in NEET-PG counselling?

Doctors who wish to specialise in subjects such as surgery, gynaecology, or general medicine after completing their MBBS degrees have to appear for the NEET-PG, the exams for which usually happen in January every year. In 2021, however, the exams were repeatedly postponed because of Covid-19 and were finally conducted in September.

The counselling, to let the students choose their stream and college, did not begin after the exam results were announced because of a batch of cases pending in the Supreme Court pertaining to the quota for the economically weaker sections (EWS).

Those who join the PG courses also work as junior residents in the hospitals associated with the medical colleges as part of their training and form the backbone of services provided at most government-run medical colleges.

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With repeated delays in the NEET-PG examination and counselling and the outgoing batch moving on to join jobs as senior residents, there was a one-third shortfall in staff strength in medical college hospitals across the city and this was the reason behind countrywide protests by doctors.

Then why delay the exams for next year?

There are around 45,000 seats for post-graduation across medical colleges in the country. However, more than 1.5 lakh candidates apply for these seats every year. Even those who actually make the cut-off list might not get the stream or college of choice and would appear for the examination next year too.

MBBS doctors usually attempt two or three times for PG admissions. However, with counselling for NEET-PG 2021 likely to go on till March, many would not have been able to attend the 2022 exam if it were to be held on March 12.

“A lot of representations were being received from medical doctors regarding the request to delay NEET PG-2022 examination date … since it is clashing with the NEET-PG 2021 counselling,” said a letter from Dr B Srinivas, Assistant Director General (medical education) at the Directorate General of Health Services, to the executive director of National Board of Examinations that conducts the test.

The letter states, “Also, many of the interns would not be able to participate in the PG counselling 2022 by the month of May/ June 2022.”

Many medical universities had delayed the final examinations for MBBS, leading to a delay in the mandatory one-year internship that the students have to complete before their PG counselling. Many of the MBBS students are not able to finish their mandatory internship in the given period due to pandemic related delays and hence will become ineligible.

NEET PG 2022, NEET PG 2022 Postponed Resident doctors protest outside a hospital in Ahmedabad, Gujarat in November 2021. (Express Photo: Nirmal Harindran)

What are the challenges with pushing the examination dates?

With the delays starting last year, the timeline of all the processes has been hampered. “They have currently said there will be a delay of six to eight weeks, but no date has been announced for the examination. Last year too there were repeated delays in examinations that led to the manpower crisis,” said Dr Manish Kumar, president of Federation of Resident Doctors’ Association that led the protest of resident doctors to expedite NEET-PG in November and December last year.

Another batch would complete their PG this April and again lead to a 33 per cent shortage of manpower if the tests are further delayed, he said.

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