A section of candidates with high scores in the National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (NEET) colluded with private colleges to block seats till the last minute, allowing the institutes to sell the seats to low rank holders, an HT investigation has found.
An all-India examination for admission to medical and dental colleges, NEET replaced a clutch of separate entrance exams in 2016.
The scam has come to light years after the multi-layered exam-rigging scandal in Madhya Pradesh, commonly known as the Vyapam scam, which saw a racket of touts, officials and candidates rig entrance tests to professional medical colleges between 2004 and 2013.
In the latest scam, HT found that the high-scoring candidates blocked the seats in the initial counselling rounds and withdrew in the last minute so that the colleges could trade the vacancies for money.
Private colleges in at least three states — Bihar, Karnataka and Puducherrry – might be been involved in the corrupt practice, commission agents told HT.
And this is how they did it.
A high rank holder, who has already taken admission in another state, say Uttar Pradesh, went to Bihar, appeared in the first or second round of counselling and blocked a seat.
“We acted as a mediator between the college and some of the high rank holders. The deal varied between Rs 5 lakh to 20 lakh depending upon the colleges,” an agent said.
After the initial counselling rounds, a Supreme Court directive allows the designated authorities to provide a list of candidates in the order of merit to the colleges in the ratio 1:10, which means a list containing ten times more candidates than vacant seats.
“When it went to the college level, the high rank holders withdrew their claims increasing the vacancy and giving opportunities to colleges to use its own discretion,” the agent added.
Colleges gave seats even to candidates outside the list provided by the counselling authorities.
Prabhat Kumar, director of medical education in Bihar, admitted to the goings on.
“We asked candidates to deposit demand drafts in the name of the colleges. Perhaps that allowed candidate to collude with colleges to block seats,” says Kumar.
“The last-minute vacancy trend shows that seats were blocked. We will take steps to prevent that next time.”
Dr Sachidanand, director of medical education in Karnataka too admitted that there might be possibilities of blocking of seat because the Karnataka Examination Authority (KEA), designated to hold counselling, didn’t deposit original certificates of candidates.
“We thought it would cause inconvenience to the students,” Dr Sachidanand said.
Agents claim that the modus operandi was different in Karnataka.
“Seats were allotted in private colleges but the first-year fee worth Rs 6.32 lakh was deposited with the KEA. So the college agreed to pay the candidate the first year fee along with the commission to block the seat because candidate has to forfeit Rs 6.32 lakh for the withdrawal,” says the agent.
In Puducherry, the Central Admission Committee (Centac), the designated authority for counselling, found that at the mop-up round the total number of vacant seats were 96 but colleges admitted more than 150 students.
“It means dozens of students had blocked the seat and withdrew at the last moment,” said a senior official from Centac.
The private colleges didn’t admit a single student from the list of 960 that Centac gave it.
When contacted, PT Rudra Goud, co-ordinator, Centac, said, “We have received admission details from all the colleges and we are examining it.”
Other states, such as Punjab and Rajasthan, denied any such possibility of seat blocking as officials said that they didn’t hand over seats to the colleges beforehand.
“Even the last candidate who was allotted seat in a college was through government counselling,” said Dr Raj Bahadur, vice chancellor, Baba Farid University of Health Sciences.