Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Chronicle of glitches foretold: NTA faces several charges in Delhi HC

NEW DELHI, JULY 9: Wrong information on possible negative marking. A re-test for over 1,000 candidates, following glitches, but without a public notice. Interview calls to candidates with the results of 200-plus still undeclared.
Such are the charges the National Testing Agency (NTA) faced earlier this year in Delhi High Court, months before the allegations of paper leaks and other lapses in all-India tests like the NEET-UG and the UGC-NET dragged it into national limelight.
In the High Court case, the NTA also faces allegations of the loss of answer sheets and the issuance of admit cards with incorrect centres.
All this relates to an exam to recruit 553 patent examiners to the Department of Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade under the Commerce Ministry. The posts were advertised last year and the preliminary recruitment test was initially held by the Quality Council of India in September 2023.
But the Council failed to check the candidates’ biometrics and, after complaints, the test was handed over to the NTA. The prelims were held afresh in December.
However, several candidates said they could not take the exam because the centres mentioned on their admit cards were too far away. For instance, candidates from Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh, were allotted centres in Bilaspur, Himachal Pradesh.
Of the 89,657 who had registered, just 33,228 sat the prelims. The NTA declared 10,474 eligible for the mains, held on January 25 this year.
The candidates say a marking scheme issued by the NTA on January 23 said there would be negative marking for wrong answers. But during the exam, every question on the computer screen displayed “Positive Mark-1/ Negative Mark-0”.
The NTA, in an order issued on April 2 under a High Court nudge, admitted the error but said a clarification was issued at the exam centres and no candidate lost out.
“There was no such announcement in the exam halls”, Nitesh Singh, a candidate and petitioner, told this newspaper.
The NTA acknowledged that some mains candidates initially “received admit cards with centre details of preliminary examination”. It said it sent amended admit cards, but many candidates went to the wrong centres based on the initial admit cards and missed the test.
So, the NTA held a re-test of the mains for 1,037 such candidates on February 5. But only 258 appeared. The NTA had issued no public notice.
The agency says it contacted everyone individually by phone or email, but many candidates say they never got to know about the re-test.
Also, the April 2 order said, 239 candidates’ results were awaited. Yet the agency declared a cut-off and called eligible candidates to interviews.
“With 200-plus results undeclared, how can the NTA determine the cut-off? Nor did it explain why some results remained undeclared”, Singh said.
However, at least one candidate was individually told his answer sheet for Mains Paper-II (Descriptive) was missing. He was asked to come to the NTA office to retake the paper. He did so on March 28. The candidate has already been recruited and asked not to be identified.
“We want the mains re-conducted fairly by another agency”, Singh said. The next hearing in the High Court is on July 15.
An email was sent to NTA Director-General Pradeep Singh Kharola seeking his comments on the allegations. His response is awaited.
(Courtesy: TT)