Manisha Tiwari|Aug 10, 2022
NEET: How NRI quota dilutes ‘merit’ but faces none of the flak reservation gets
NEET counselling data shows NRI quota applicants with very low NEET scores buy MBBS seats without being accused of compromising 'merit' in medical admission.
By Ruchika Chauhan and R. Radhika
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NEW DELHI: A low score in National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (NEET) does not hinder your chances of securing a medical seat. Being poor does.
Apart from private colleges, government colleges also offer Non-Residential Indian (NRI) quota seats that go to candidates with large reserves of dollars and who cross the NEET’s qualifying score even if it is with very low individual marks. While India’s policy of reserving seats for historically-marginalized communities such as the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes has been blamed for diluting “merit” in medical education, an overview of the NRI quota admission in 2020 shows that many students who barely made the NEET cut-off list were able to pay their way into MBBS seats without any stigma.
Careers360 analysed and compared the closing ranks in state-level counselling for NRI quota and government seats in 42 public and private medical colleges across India. The closing rank is the lowest rank at which admission was granted, the college’s cut-off rank for a section of seats.
In Government Medical College, Amritsar, a candidate at a rank five lakh places below the last reserved category candidate was admitted in 2020. The difference was 5.8 lakh in Dr Rajendra Prasad Government Medical College, Tanda, Himachal Pradesh. This gap only widens in private medical colleges. Data from 2020 was used as it was the latest available for the states considered.
Under the NRI Quota, Overseas Citizens of India (OCI), Persons of Indian Origin (PIO), and Foreign Nationals are eligible for admission. The seats are also open to students residing in India but have NRI first-degree relatives who can sponsor their education. In case there’s no parent or relative, a guardian residing outside India is also considered. Conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA), NEET is the only gateway to medical education in India.
Low NEET cutoff
In 2020, 15.9 lakh students registered for NEET while 13.6 lakh, including 1,869 NRI students, wrote the exam. A total of 7.7 lakh qualified, that is, they secured the minimum percentile, commonly known as “NEET percentile”. The score corresponding to the NEET percentile varies each year depending on the number of students to qualify and the seats available. SC, ST and OBC students have to score within the 40th percentile; general category students must score within the 50th percentile.
The low cut-offs, according to experts, benefit applicants with ‘low merit’ – as assessed by the NEET – but from rich families, capable of paying the hefty MBBS admission fees. The seats for NRI candidates push aside students with better scores – more merit – but less wealth.
The NEET exam paper carries a total score of 720 marks. At the time of declaring the NEET result, the NTA states the qualifying cut-off scores for each category of candidates. This is the minimum score required to participate in NEET counselling, the process of assigning a seat to a candidate In 2020, the qualifying score for general category candidates eligible for open seats was 147, and for SC, ST and OBC, it was 113. In practice, only candidates with higher scores can secure subsidised seats in government colleges. A general-category candidate must score more than 500 while a reserved-category student must score around 250 to 300 under the state quota. Admission to the management quota seats in private colleges, deemed universities, and a few self-financing institutions is based on the NEET score, of course, but also the ability to afford the fee. The second factor is even more significant for the NRI quota for which the cut-off scores at all but two of the medical colleges considered for this analysis were below 300.
“The problem undeniably exists for which the government should ensure a cap on marks below which a student cannot get admission. If the admission is happening at low marks, we must understand that these students do not have the capacity to learn medicine. Medicine requires a basic knowledge of physics, chemistry, and biology which cannot be overlooked while giving them admission,” said Major Gulshan Garg, orthopedic surgeon and associated with the Sankalp Charitable Trust which advocated for NEET. “In my experience people who come from reserved categories have struggled to complete the course.”
However, the counselling data shows that in most colleges, it is the NRI quota students who secure admission at the lowest scores. “If you carve out seats for NRIs then it is a loss in terms of healthcare. These seats are paid for rather than earned on merit. When you pay for a seat, it also brings in a hierarchical form of medical education. The idea that students coming through affirmative action are less meritorious will get more aggravated,” said Sylvia Kapargam, a public health expert.
NTA NEET: NRI Quota In Gujarat
Currently, government medical colleges of Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, and Puducherry offer NRI quota seats. The colleges roughly charge a fee of $20,000 per year – approximately Rs 15.3 lakh. Gujarat alone had 270 NRI seats in state-run medical colleges in 2020. The table below shows the lowest ranks at which students from various categories got admission in different Gujarat medical colleges, along with their scores.
Gujarat NEET cutoff ranks of NRI vs Reserved category seats
GCS Medical College Hospital and Research Centre, Ahmedabad
GMERS Medical College and Hospital, Gandhinagar
GMERS Medical College Gotri Vadodara
GMERS Medical College Sola Ahmedabad
Smt. NHL Municipal Medical College Ahmedabad
Note: The lowest ranks for admission in government seats were all ST candidates
During NEET counselling, admissions happen in rounds depending on the number of seats available. Typically, after two rounds, the state conducts a “mop-up round” in which the remaining seats, including those vacated due to withdrawal from the first two rounds, are filled. While analysing data, only the last rank was considered, irrespective of the counselling round in which NEET admission closed.
NEET Counselling: Punjab NRI quota
In Government Medical College Patiala, the lowest score at which a student got admission under government quota seats was 430 marks and it was an SC student. The NRI quota cut-off score was a much lower 272. Following this trend, NRI seats in private medical colleges went to students with low scores compared to government quota seats. Every private medical college in Punjab has 50 percent seats in government quota for which reservation and the government’s fee policy apply. The remaining 50 percent seats comprise 35 percent management quota and 15 percent NRI quota seats.
The table below shows the cut-off ranks and corresponding scores at five medical colleges. In the case of the government or open quota, the reservation category is given as well.
Punjab NEET Cutoff ranks of NRI vs Reserved seat
Christian Medical College, Ludhiana
Dayanand Medical College, Ludhiana
Government Medical College, Amritsar
Government Medical College, Patiala
Punjab Institute of Medical Sciences, Jalandhar
Note: The closing ranks in government or open quota seats were of SC category students.
High MBBS fee in India
The average fee for the five-year MBBS in government medical colleges is Rs 5 lakh. However, self-financing government-run colleges in several states offer management as well as NRI seats for which they charge much more. The NRI quota fees in government colleges range from Rs 14 lakh to nearly Rs 20 lakh per year. While this is very high for government seats, it is still lower than the over Rs 30 lakh per year MBBS admission fee most private colleges charge for NRI seats.
For instance, Kempegowda Institute of Medical Sciences, Banglore, one of the most sought-after private medical colleges in Karnataka, has an admission fee of Rs 36,55,650 for an NRI student.
NEET Result: NRI ranks, scores in Karnataka
Karnataka Government had intended to introduce NRI quota seats in government-run medical colleges but faced with protests, dropped the idea. NRI seats in public colleges in Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh were discontinued.
“The government medical colleges are already less in number. On top of that, the state government has significantly reduced funding for these colleges. To manage, medical colleges wanted to introduce NRI seats. Where will the local talented students who do not have enough money go if the government starts commercialising education?” asked Ajay Kamath, Karnataka state general secretary, All India Democratic Students Organisation.
The table below shows the cut-off ranks and corresponding scores for the NRI quota and the seats reserved for SC students. At all but one college in the list below, the difference is over 200 marks with the SC category student ahead. However, the cut-off scores of 113 and 116 at institutions suggest that students from OBC and ST backgrounds may have found a way to pay their way into an NRI seat, without benefitting from the reservations mandated for their communities. The NRI quota is caste-agnostic; the only consideration is money and NEET qualification, no matter how low the score.
Karnataka NEET UG 2020 cutoff scores
Al-Ameen Medical College, Bijapur
BGS Global Institute of Medical Sciences, Bangalore
Dr BR Ambedkar Medical College, Bangalore
Father Muller Institute of Medical Education and Research, Mangalore
Kempegowda Institute of Medical Sciences, Bangalore
MS Ramaiah Medical College, Bangalore
SDM College of Medical Sciences and Hospital, Sattur
Vydehi Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Centre, Bangalore
Note: All closing ranks in government or open quota seats belonged to SC category students.
Based on a student’s preferences marked in the application form for state-level counselling, a student can find their name in the allotment lists of two different colleges later rounds.
NEET UG: MBBS in Maharashtra
Maharashtra has one of the highest numbers of MBBS seats in India. The table below shows the NEET cutoff ranks after the mop-up round for seats under NRI and ST quotas. NRI aspirants are eligible for admission to only the institutional quota, that is 15 percent of seats in private unaided colleges. Dr. Panjabrao Deshmukh Memorial Medical College, Amravati, Maharashtra charges a whopping Rs 45 lakh annually for an MBBS seat under the NRI quota.
The table below gives the ranks and scores for NRI and ST quota admissions.
Maharashtra NEET UG 2020 cutoff scores
ACPM Medical College, Dhule
Ashwini Rural Medical College Hospital and Research Centre, Kumbhari
BKL Walawalkar Rural Medical College, Ratnagiri
Dr Panjabrao Deshmukh Memorial Medical College, Amravati
Dr Vasantrao Pawar Medical College Hospital and Research Center, Adgaon
Dr Ulhas Patil Medical College and General Hospital, Jalgaon
Dr Vitthalrao Vikhe Patil Foundation’s Medical College and Hospital, Ahmednagar
KJ Somaiya Medical College and Research Centre, Mumbai
Maharashtra Institute of Medical Education and Research, Pune
Maharashtra Institute of Medical Sciences and Research, Latur
NKP Salve Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Centre and Lata Mangeshkar Hospital, Nagpur
Prakash Institute of Medical Sciences and Research, Sangli
Sindhudurg Shikshan Prasarak Mandal Medical College and Lifetime Hospital, Sindhudurg
Sinhgad Technical Education Society Smt Kashibai Navale Medical College and General Hospital, Ambegaon
SMBT Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Centre, Nashik
Terna Medical College, Navi Mumbai
Vedantaa Institute of Medical Science, Palghar
* Mop-up closing ranks for ST and NRI quota seats
The system not only favours the rich but has long-term implications for healthcare, Karpagam argued. “ If you pay for a medical seat, you somehow seem meritorious. The pride of having paid for your seat is considered better than getting admission on a reserved seat and it is not questioned. Students from urban and rich backgrounds usually do not meet the healthcare needs of the country,”she explained.
NEET Cut-Offs: Himachal Pradesh, Puducherry
The table for Himachal Pradesh, only Maharishi Markandeshwar Medical College, and Hospital, Solan, is private. The “backward area” quota seats are reserved for candidates in backward areas notified by the Himachal Pradesh Government. In Himachal Pradesh, the MBBS admission fee for NRI quota seats in Maharishi Markandeshwar Medical College and Hospital, Solan is $ 44,075.
Himachal Pradesh NEET UG cutoff 2020
Dr Rajendra Prasad Government Medical College, Tanda
Indira Gandhi Medical College, Shimla
Maharishi Markandeshwar Medical College and Hospital, Solan
Note: Disability Quota, Kashmiri migrants, special reservation not considered,
** Backward area quota
The situation is much the same in three out of four Puducherry institutions considered. However, here, the NEET score gap between the last admissions in government quota and NRI quota is narrower with one college registering a difference of just seven.
Puducherry NEET UG cutoff 2020
Indira Gandhi Medical College and Research Institute, Kathirkamam
Pondicherry Institute of Medical Sciences, Pondicherry
Sri Manakula Vinayagar Medical College and Hospital, Puducherry
Sri Venkateshwaraa Medical College Hospital and Research Centre, Pondicherry
Note: All closing ranks in government quota seats belonged to SC category students.
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