Protesting students in Islamabad demand MDCAT on single day

Published September 24, 2021
Students hold placards and banners during protest outside the PMC office in Islamabad on Thursday. — White Star
Students hold placards and banners during protest outside the PMC office in Islamabad on Thursday. — White Star

ISLAMABAD: Students from across the country on Thursday again held a protest outside the Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC) and demanded that the Medical and Dental Colleges Admission Test (MDCAT) should be held on a single day across the country.

Their sit-in outside the PMC building was going on till filing of this story.

As students had announced their protest, police were deployed outside the PMC building in the morning. Superintendent of Police Saddar Nousherwan Ali and representative of the district administration were also present there.

Later, a large number of students reached outside the building and chanted slogans against the PMC and demanded that the MDCAT should be held on a single day across the country. They said according to PMC Act a single test had to be held every year.

However, under the interpretation of the law by the PMC each student would be allowed to sit a single test.

Sit-in staged outside PMC building after talks with officials fail

But the students were demanding that the test should be held again on a single day. They alleged that the data of students were stolen as the website of the private company holding the MDCAT has been hacked.

Later, the PMC called the students for negotiations after which a five-member delegation held a meeting with the PMC management. However, they could not reach any decision due to which the students staged the sit-in.

The students said MDCAT was being held over a period of one month, adding if India could hold the test for 1.8 million students in a single day why it could not be held in Pakistan where the number of students taking the exam was around 200,000.

The PMC spokesperson was not available for comments.

The commission has already been under fire as it had given the contract of holding the computer-based MDCAT to a company which was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) after the expiry date for submission of the applications for the contract.

The PMC fixed Rs6,000 as a fee for each student to sit the test.

In July this year, Transparency International Pakistan (TIP) had suggested to the PMC president and the government to take notice of the violations of Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) rules in the award of the MDCAT contract.

The letter addressed to PMC President Dr Arshad Taqi, available with Dawn stated that the commission had awarded the contract worth millions of rupees to a service providing firm incorporated in SECP after the advertisement date. The request for proposals was advertised by the PMC on May 4, 2021, from the service providing firms to hold a computer-based MCQ exam on an annual basis for about 175,000 students and the first exam was to be held in August 2021.

The PMC had demanded that the service provider must have installed/available a minimum of 2,500-3,000 laptop/portable computer terminals of specifications and standards capable of handling a computerised examination to be located at centres in at least 20 designated cities across Pakistan.

The advertisement stated that proposals may be submitted in seven days and not later than May 10, 2021.

The contract was awarded to M/S SOAR Testing and Evaluation Platform (SMC-PVT) and then the company requested the PMC to release an advance payment of over Rs115 million without deduction of the withholding tax (WHT) to adjust from its share, it stated.

The letter signed by TIP Vice Chairperson retired Justice Nasira Iqbal stated that according to PPRA rules 15 days had to be given to the companies but the PMC provided only seven days. Moreover, there were a number of other violations, it added.

According to the PMC Conduct of Examinations Regulations 2021, the syllabus for the MDCAT exam shall not be bound to any textbook or the HSSC boards and questions in each paper will be randomly selected from an examination question bank. No person shall have the right to object to the questions.

Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2021

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