No Dismal Performance

Even though the students from Jammu and Kashmir under-performed numerically in comparison to the national average but the sheer number and the merit indicate that they can compete better in any test

Jammu and Kashmir has below-average performance in the just released NEET results. Even though the details suggest that the performance is better than in 2021, on basis of the average and in comparison with the rest of the states across India, Jammu and Kashmir has underperformed.

The national pass percentage for the NTA conducted NEET for 2022 is 56.28 per cent with as many as 16 states across India recording above average percentage. Certain states created big records – Nagaland had 82 per cent of its candidates cracking the test and in Delhi, it was 75 per cent. However, in the case of Jammu and Kashmir, it has been a modest 54.9 per cent.

The information available publicly suggests that Jammu and Kashmir has improved its own record of 2021 by 10 per cent.  In 2021, 34 615 candidates had registered from Jammu and Kashmir and of them, 31479 wrote their examination and 14743 eventually qualified it. That meant a success rate of 42.59 per cent.

This year, 38140 students registered from Jammu and Kashmir. Of them, 36374 appeared in the examination and in the just-released list of the successful candidates 20005 were found to have qualified it. This means a success of 52 per cent.

The NEET test that offers a national-level grade to a student was earlier conducted by the Board of Professional Entrance Examinations (BOPEE). After the key test was taken over by NEET across India in 2019, BOPEE has been given a different job in addition to the allotment of MBBS and BDS seats and counselling. So this is only the fourth year that the students from Jammu and Kashmir are part of the elaborate countrywide exercise.

NO 7 Position

The performance, however, is not so bad. In the open merit, it was Haziq Parveez Lone, the son of an apple grower in Trenz (Shopian) who scored the tenth rank. If genders are separated, then he falls at the No 7 position among boys.

Leaving only 10 of the 720 marks in the highly competitive examination is a rare feat. Earlier, it would have been slightly easier because the competition was within 25 to 30,000 candidates from Jammu and Kashmir. Now it is an all-India competition in which 1872343 candidates appeared.

As the news broke, the residents of the village and their relatives descended upon Lone’s home in the dusky Trenz village. He was profusely garlanded for the rare feat.

“I am thankful to God Almighty for this success,” Lone Jr said. “This has been possible only because of Him. I am thankful to my parents and the coaching institute as well.” He was a student at Aakash Institute in Srinagar.

Lone said he knew he will score well. But never, he said, “I had imagined that I will be at rank 10.” He regretted the crisis that he and other students faced during Covid19 and the frequent internet shutdowns. Schooled locally in private institutions in Shopian, he enrolled at government higher secondary school Turkwamgam while coaching in Srinagar. His success was celebrated by the political class and even LG, Manoj Sinha tweeted on his success.

Top Girl

The Kashmiri girl who secured the highest marks in UG NEET is Simra Sikander. A resident of the HMT area of Srinagar, she has been a student of Doon International School. Hugely interested in computers, becoming a doctor has been her personal ambition.

“I am not going away from computers either,” Simra told Kashmir Life. Daughter of an established restaurant owner in Srinagar, she credits her family for the support she got in cracking the examination.

Interestingly, she had not prepared herself for NEET. She studied for the twelfth class and once that examination was over, she appeared for NEET and managed to crack it.

At the same time, however, there are countless stories of boys and girls from modest backgrounds who have cracked the national examination with good marks. Mohammad Nadeem son of Hajin in north Kashmir cracked the examination in his fourth attempt and got 603 marks. Coached by KIE in Srinagar, Nadeem has studied in government-run schools throughout.

However, it is Mehrajuddin Khan who dominated social media. Khan, a young boy from an underprivileged family in Goiwara Pattan, had studied in the rural schools in his own area in Baramulla villages. In order to help his family, he would join his father in selling the roasted barbeque.

Khan said he could not afford private coaching. Though the family had pushed him to opt for it and he did enrol himself in Baramulla but the Covid19 tensions froze life.

“I studied using YouTube,” Khan said. “There are fantastic teachers and great videos on almost all subjects. There is no cost except the phone bill.”

A National Rank

“The national test has unleashed our students and they have started coming out of the closed environment,” a senior professor, who usually is busy in counselling students said. “This provides them a better competitive environment and helps them negotiate their future better.”

Students appearing in the annual Class 12th examination being conducted by the J&K State Board of School Education in Kashmir valley on Thursday November 12, 2020. KL Image by Bilal Bahadur

The professor said that the countrywide test is crucial because it suits the New Education Policy-2020. “Earlier, every state used to conduct their own tests and it was possible a candidate getting 70 per cent marks may not be able to manage even 50 per cent if he or she would sit in a national examination,” the professor said. “The national level examination addresses that concern as now everybody knows the rank one gets is an All India rank and nobody can dispute it.”

Earlier, when the tests would be managed locally at state levels, certain states would opt for additional tests for enrolment if required. Now that is not a pre-requisite. This rank will be accepted anywhere.

The Flip Side

Joining the NEET has, at the same time, compromised the earlier set-up. Officials who have remained associated with the exercise for a very long time said the new system will be impacting Jammu and Kashmir in three ways.

Many decades back, the Jammu and Kashmir government had taken a serious decision of given half of the medical seats to women. This was primarily a demographic requirement because half of the population is female. This reservation was helpful in a conservative society where an adequate number of females would be manning the health sector.

Lt Governor addressing first batch of MBBS students of GMC Doda

NEET does not recognise anything other than merit. So there are no reservations now for women. Interestingly, this is possible that now women might have more berths in medical schools than boys because women invariably score better in competitive examinations like NET and JEE.

The second impact is that Jammu and Kashmir’s reservation systems were slightly different from the national system. Jammu and Kashmir, for instance, had 20 per cent of berths in medical colleges reserved for RBA – residents of backward areas. That reservation is gone. Now, we strictly follow the national-level reservation system. This essentially means Kashmir’s far-flung areas will now be less represented in medical schools.

Since Mandal Commission days, as everybody knows, only half of the professional seats fall under the open merit category. The rest are reserved – 27 per cent for OBC’s non-creamy layer (in Jammu and Kashmir some OSC fall in it), Scheduled Castes 15 per cent, and Scheduled Tribes 7.5 per cent.

The third impact will be that Jammu and Kashmir has to join the all-India quota system. While 85 per cent of seats in medical colleges will be filled by candidates from Jammu and Kashmir, the balance of 15 per cent will be open for non-residents. Against this, students from Jammu and Kashmir will get a right to compete for these berths in medical colleges outside Jammu and Kashmir.

People aware of this system said it works differently. Most of the students, who avail the 15 per cent in medical colleges of Kashmir, though not in Jammu, face a language barrier and eventually migrate. This leaves their berths empty. On the other side, the colleges where the Kashmiri candidates secure berths have to pay good amounts and in certain cases, it is very difficult to manage those fees.

LG Sinha Lays Foundation Stone of GMC Baramulla on August 14, 2022

Many Berths

This also is a reality that all NEET-qualified boys and girls eventually land in medical schools. Jammu and Kashmir had very limited berths in the few medical colleges. It is only in the last few years that the overall number of MBBS berths in private and publicly owned medical colleges has reached 1100.

This essentially means that a lot of changes have taken place in the systems and the process. Despite all the new rules, a good number of students from Jammu and Kashmir – in comparison to the recent past, will still be able to study within their home territory.

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