NTA Director General Subodh Kumar Singh was removed from his position on Saturday and placed on “compulsory wait” in the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT). India Trade Promotion Organisation Chairman and MD Pradeep Singh Kharola has been assigned the additional charge of NTA DG. This move comes amidst a growing controversy over alleged irregularities in the conduct of exams.

Education Minister’s Statement

Earlier, Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan stated that the “top leadership” of the National Testing Agency is under scrutiny for alleged irregularities in competitive exams NEET and NET, while denying any paper leak in the CSIR-UGC NET, which was postponed a day earlier.

The minister said he is the custodian of students’ interests and has to take that into account before taking any step. Amid a raging row over irregularities in the medical entrance exam NEET, Pradhan had said earlier this week that he cannot jeopardise the careers of the lakhs of candidates who cleared the exam rightfully.

Postponement of CSIR-UGC NET

The June edition of the Joint Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and UGC-NET was postponed on Friday night. The Joint CSIR-UGC-NET is a test conducted to determine eligibility for junior research fellowship and assistant professor and admission to PhD in science courses.

“There was no leak in CSIR-UGC NET, it was postponed because of logistic issues. There is also a retest of 1,563 NEET candidates tomorrow. For smooth conduct of the exam everywhere, the decision was taken,” Pradhan told reporters.

Institutional Failure Acknowledged

Asked about any inquiry into the NTA’s role, Pradhan said, “I have already said there has been an institutional failure. I have taken responsibility. NTA’s top leadership is under several types of questions. But I have to safeguard students’ interests first. I am a custodian of their interests.”

Ongoing Investigations

Earlier this week, the ministry sought a report from the Bihar Police’s Economic Offences Unit, which is investigating the allegations of paper leak in NEET.”The report has not been received yet… But it is certain that nobody involved or responsible for any irregularity will be spared,” he said.

Irregularities in Gujarat

On irregularities in Gujarat’s Godhra, the minister said the issue in Godhra was not of a paper leak but of organised cheating and 30 students have been debarred.

“Gujarat case is not of leak…police took preventive action, a few telephone conversations were intercepted. There were attempts to cheat, 30 students who have been found involved have been debarred. They are in addition to 63 students from across the country who were debarred from NEET for using unfair means,” he said.

Paper Leak Row

The Centre is under fire over alleged irregularities in competitive exams NEET and NET. While the medical entrance exam question paper was allegedly leaked, a case being investigated by the Bihar Police, UGC-NET was cancelled a day after it was conducted following inputs that the integrity of the exam was compromised. The matter is being probed by the CBI.

The education ministry on Saturday notified a seven-member panel headed by former ISRO chief K Radhakrishnan to ensure transparent, smooth and fair conduct of examinations through the NTA.

On Friday night, the Centre operationalised a stringent law that aims to curb malpractice and irregularities in competitive examinations and entails provisions for a maximum jail term of 10 years and a fine of up to Rs 1 crore for offenders.

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