Six perfect NEET scorers, all from same Haryana centre, lose bragging rights | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Six perfect NEET scorers, all from same Haryana centre, lose bragging rights

By, Bahadurgarh/jhajjar
Jun 14, 2024 04:35 AM IST

On Thursday, however, a shroud of anxiety dispelled their joy as SC allowed the Centre to scrap grace marks awarded during NEET and hold a retest on June 23.

Over the past week, India was roiled by protests as angry students hit the streets over the controversial National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) results. But in a corner of Haryana, six students – five boys and one girl – celebrated quietly as they were among the 67 candidates who scored a perfect 720.

Hardayal Public School in Bahadurgarh, Haryana.
Hardayal Public School in Bahadurgarh, Haryana.

All six had appeared for the exam at the Hardayal Public School in Bahadurgarh, and received grace marks – as high as 140, according to students and teachers – that boosted their scores.

On Thursday, however, a shroud of anxiety dispelled their joy as the Supreme Court allowed the Centre to scrap grace marks awarded during NEET and hold a retest on June 23.

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Most of the 1,563 people awarded grace marks had scored poorly but six were part of the list of 67 toppers – the same six who wrote NEET at Hardayal Public School, a development that created a stir as it became emblematic of wider controversy that engulfed NEET this year. On Thursday night, they lost their status candidates who aced what is normally considered to be one of India’s toughest entrance examinations.

“I have been the topper of my school in Class 10 and 12 and it was not magic that I did it again. The decision is just not fair as mentally we were relaxed amid celebrations by friends and family members. This news had turned into a nightmare,” said a 17-year-old girl who scored 720 after getting grace marks.

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Three of the six studied together in primary school in Jhajjar district and two were good friends who prepared for the test together at the same institute. HT is not naming the students because they’re minors.

Another topper, also 17, said his school and coaching centre already advertised his achievement but the court decision made a mockery of him. “What if I did not make it this time? Society will laugh at me and my family members. This undue pressure is troubling me now and it will impact my studies too,” said the boy who attempted NEET for the first time.

Two other toppers said that their initial jubilation was replaced by disappointment upon hearing about the retest order. The court has said that if the students don’t opt for the retest, their actual scores without the grace marks will be considered.

“The court verdict is deeply unfair to us. Scoring full marks was a result of my hard work and dedication, not grace marks. Now, I fear that my earlier achievement will be questioned if my performance changes in the retest,” said a 17-year-old.

At the heart of their predicament is the controversial decision of the National Testing Agency (NTA) to award grace marks to some students. According to NTA, students from six centres in Meghalaya, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Surat and Chandigarh complained about “loss of time” during the exams. At these locations, they did not get the fully allotted 3 hours and 20 minutes to write the exam due to administrative reasons that included the distribution of the wrong question paper, torn OMR sheets or delay in the distribution of OMR sheets. A committee was formed by NTA to probe the matter and it was decided that “grace marks” would be given to the students who lost time.

The agency said it awarded marks on the basis of the students’ answering efficiency and time lost, based on a formula established by a 2018 Supreme Court judgment regarding a similar incident in CLAT. The overall marks of these 1,563 candidates, after grace marks, vary between -20 and 720.

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NTA did not share the exact formula used to calculate the grace marks and it was not clear if it used the exact CLAT formula or a modified version of that. “The students were compensated on the basis of questions attempted by them in whatever time was available to them,” the agency maintained. But this clarification did little to remove the shadow of scandal hanging over the process.

Teachers at Hardayal Public School said there was no foul play but confusion over the set of question papers resulted in a delay.

“The students were not from the same school, they had come from different schools of the district. We were confused over two different sets and initially, we thought we had to give two sets of question papers but when students complained, we checked with NTA and took back one set. The process wasted a good 20 minutes,” said a teacher, requesting anonymity.

The principal said they were cooperating with the authorities and the exam was taken under surveillance.

The parents of some of the erstwhile toppers were despondent. A 40-year-old woman from Jhajjar whose husband is a daily wage labourer said they barely earn enough to make ends meet. “Education was a luxury for which we ate only once a day. My son studied all night and slept hardly for three hours in the last two years. We do not have money to buy leaked papers or bribe anyone,” she said. “But this decision has burdened him with pressure…he is nervous and unmotivated.”

Not everyone is unhappy though. A 17-year-old who scored 650 is hopeful that the verdict will show that the assessment was not fair to everyone. “It will give a level playing field to all aspirants as there will be no grace marks,” he said.

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