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NEET Super-Specialty Intake: A Paradox of Demand and Supply or the Eligibility?
In 1999, at Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) Chandigarh, the postdoctoral course entrance examination to DM/MCh witnessed an unusual situation. Generally, to qualify for the final interview, a candidate must secure a minimum of 50% marks. Unexpectedly, most of the toppers fell short of it by fractions, and in some specialties, none qualified. Typically, no seat goes vacant for want of performance at this highly competitive examination. There could have been issues related to question paper standards or the evaluation pattern of multiple responses, etc., which most felt. However, the institute, true to its reputation, refused to grant grace marks by stating that “if the candidates do not meet our standards, we do not want them” Consequently, only a handful of postgraduates could join, including those in plastic surgery. In 2021, the situation seems similar to the vacancies at the national eligibility cum entrance test (NEET) for superspecialty (SS); the reasons, however, are different, and that is what I intend to highlight and discuss.
The NEET SS (2020–21) for DM, MCh, and DNB courses was recently concluded, albeit with pandemic delays. As many as 428 seats remained vacant despite reducing the qualification percentile in mop-up rounds. In plastic surgery alone, 28 seats out of 249 remained unclaimed.
Several factors possibly are responsible for this enormous wastage, such as candidate's preference for specialty and institution, mandatory service bond or hefty penalty, variations in stipend and fee structure in private institutes, increased number of seats and, finally, NEET eligibility versus the number of available seats for the applicants. I believe there are serious disadvantages to the 50th percentile eligibility that must be reconsidered.
A quick look at the seat matrix and the number of candidates appearing in each MCh/DNB surgical superspecialty indicates toward the demand-supply equations ([Table 1]).  Every year, over 3600 general surgery postgraduates and those from other broad specialties complete their training and apply for over 2000 M.Ch./DNB seats both in NEET and autonomous institutes. However, the criterion of 50th percentile limits aspiring postgraduates, where half of them are considered ineligible and remain excluded.
31 March 2021 (online)
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