Thursday, July 25, 2024

NEET PG postponement: We gave up jobs for exam, spent money, now we are in a limbo, say junior doctors

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Dr Akash Soni, who works at a primary healthcare centre at Singrauli (MP), had been rotating shifts and asking seniors to cover for him as he prepared for his NEET PG exam in between duty hours. He had taken a three-day leave, travelled over 700 km to Bhopal, where his exam centre was, and had just about finished his revision when an alert on the postponement of the exam flashed on his phone. “I won’t get leave again, can’t afford to quit either. My life is in a limbo,” he says, tears of frustration welling up in his eyes.

Twenty-three-year old Dr Auwais Shaikh from Solapur travelled almost seven hours to reach his exam centre at Pune, checked into a lodge and had spent Rs 10,000 when the test he had made his life’s mission was called off. Meanwhile Dr Saheefa Hareem, who was to join Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals in Delhi on June 27, told the HR she couldn’t make it as she had no clarity on when the PG exam would take place.

These are some of the nearly two lakh MBBS graduates who appear for the NEET PG examination every year in the hope of securing one of around 52,000 post-graduation seats across the country. The cancellation of the exams may be just another official circular. For the students, it is a life-changing event. While repeated cancellations and postponements have meant unprecedented trauma born out of uncertainty, they have had to bear the hefty costs of travelling to centres, booking accommodation, none of which are refundable. Already burdened by coaching fees, they are out of options and have no cushion or a backup plan. Some of them had even given up their jobs to prepare for the exams that have exacting standards.

Dr Prathamesh Dhople, an MBBS who had just completed his internship, was too distraught to comment. Recounting his turmoil, his father said, “We had to travel from Mumbai to Navi Mumbai, check into a hotel next to the centre at Rs 13,000 a night. By the time we came to know, it was 10.30 pm. That too via TV and Twitter. It is very difficult for students to switch on and off from their studies in this manner. It is psychologically draining for those who are repeating the exams for the second or the third time.”

Dr Soni was sure he could secure a rank less than 2,000 and get a seat in the speciality of his choice — MD Medicine. “I am at the peak level of preparation right now but what to do next,” he asks blankly. Since he is also on Telegram, he reveals how a bot group promised to share NEET-PG questions on payment of Rs 1.3 lakh before the exam and Rs 1.2 lakh after it. “Many others in our group had also received similar messages,” said Dr Soni.

Festive offer

Dr Saumya Singh, a resident of UP’s Jaunpur, is at her wit’s end on how to repay the loans she had taken from her family for her second attempt. An MBBS graduate from GS Medical College in Hapur, her centre was Noida. “When I saw the message in my inbox at 10 pm, I thought it was fake news. But when I saw the Health Ministry tweet, I was devastated. I have not been working for the past year after completing my MBBS. I have been preparing meticulously for this exam and rented an accommodation at Gautam Nagar near AIIMS. My parents paid for my expenses so that I could crack the exam. I could have easily earned Rs 1 lakh per month had I joined a hospital as a junior resident. Who will now bear the cost of my lost time,” she asks, angst written large on her face.

“I am exhausted having followed the same routine for one year. It’s not about me but my whole family has been invested. Will policymakers step out of their cabins and see what’s happening on the ground?” adds Dr Singh.

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For Delhi-based Dr Shubham Jha, who did his MBBS from LHMC, this was his first attempt. He had booked a cab for his centre in Meerut. Unlike his peers, he couldn’t afford to give up his job as junior resident at LHMC and took a two-week leave to study. “Now they are financially dependent on their families.For some of us every penny counts, so why couldn’t the government give advance notice? We could have at least saved on travel and accommodation costs,” he says, the anger evident in his voice.

Dr Zainab Sheikh, an MBBS graduate and a former junior resident at Lady Hardinge Medical College, Delhi, was to appear for the second time and had quit her residency three months ago. “Now we will have to go through the entire process again because there are 19 subjects and it is impossible to maintain the same level of readiness. You have to revise over and over again. I have two more exams coming up, one for RML Delhi on July 7 and the other the UPSC CMS exam. Now I don’t know when the next date will be announced and my preparations have been affected,” she says.

Dr Saheefa Hareem quit her job at Lal Bahadur Shastri Hospital, Delhi, in December to prepare for the exam that was then scheduled for March. When that exam was postponed, she didn’t take up another job, thinking the exams would be held on time. She was even offered a job at Apollo Delhi that she was to join June 27 onwards and which she has now signed out of. Like Dr Soni, she also got a message on her Telegram group on buying leaked question papers for a price. “I didn’t celebrate Eid, my mother has been staying with me for two-and-a-half months to support my studies. Despite the postponement, I have watched two online lectures today, worried that there might be people out there who already know the questions,” says Hareem.

Dr Shaikh feels that there ought to be a proper notification for major exams like NEET PG. “At 10:11 pm, the postponement message popped up in one of our WhatsApp groups. One didn’t know if the notification was authentic or fake because it had no official stamp or signature. It was only at 11:15 pm that the exam-conducting agency NBEMS published another notice confirming the postponement. Should it not have emailed or sent an SMS to students on the contact details which they already have? What are we being punished for,” he questions.

© The Indian Express Pvt Ltd

First uploaded on: 24-06-2024 at 07:23 IST

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