India exam chief sacked after outcry over marks

NEW DELHI, INDIA - JUNE 15: Members of NSUI protest Mashal March organized by NSUI to protest against the alleged rigging in the NEET Exams, they demand a fair investigation and re-conduct of the examination (RENEET). at NSUI office , Raisina road, on June 15, 2024 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Sanchit Khanna/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
The chaos over the exams has sparked protests across India [Getty Images]

The head of India's National Testing Agency (NTA) has been dismissed following accusations of irregularities in recent exams for higher education.

The government has also appointed a committee to recommend reforms in the fiercely competitive process.

There have been calls to rerun a medical entrance test after thousands of candidates secured unusually high marks, prompting protests over alleged cheating.

The National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (NEET) is the gateway to studying medicine in India.

Millions of students sit the exam every year, but only a small percentage get good enough marks to secure a placement.

The results announced on 4 June meant that even high-scorers found it difficult to do so.

Since then, the exam has come under scrutiny for reasons ranging from errors in the question paper to unwarranted grace marks (compensatory marks) and fraud.

At least two students received exam scores so high, they were statistically impossible, local media reported. The Supreme Court is set to hear a case challenging the grace marks.

Earlier this month federal Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan admitted that “some irregularities” had come to light.

NTA chief Subodh Kumar Singh has come under intense criticism and on Saturday he was dismissed.

A qualifying exam for PhD fellowships was also cancelled after the question paper was leaked on the dark web.

The entrance test for post-graduate degrees in medicine, which was due to be sat on Sunday, has also been postponed just 12 hours before it was due to begin. More than 200,000 people had been registered to sit the exam.

Opposition parties and student groups have been holding protests across the country against the lapses, putting pressure on the recently re-elected government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Despite the scorching heat, many students have taken part in the widespread demonstrations.

Rahul Gandhi, leader of the opposition Congress Party, said Mr Modi's government had "ruined" the country's education system.

"There is huge pressure on our students. There’s largescale unemployment in the country," he said.

"The youngsters in India have no way through. The youth of India have nowhere to go. It's a profound national crisis."