“From the village from where I am from, except two or three people, no one wrote NEET. Even they didn’t make it. They are also talented. When people like us don’t have the means or the opportunities to attend coaching classes, we can only prosper using what we have.”
This was what 17-year-old Anitha, a student hailing from a Dalit family from the Kuzhumur village in Ariyalur district told News 18 channel as she stood outside the Supreme Court.
S Anitha’s fight against NEET for medical admissions was futile, after the government pulled the rug from many students by enforcing a NEET-based admissions process.
The daughter of T Shanmugam, a daily wage labourer in the Gandhi Market in Trichy, Anitha killed herself at her house on Friday. Having lost her mother at an early age, she was brought up by a single father along with 4 siblings.
Her father would carry sacks in the market, and saved money to educate his girl child.
The 17-year-old, who scored spectacularly in the 12th standard boards in Tamil Nadu, was disheartened when she only scored 86 marks out of 700 in NEET, which meant that she couldn’t qualify for a medical seat.
In class 12, Anitha scored 1176 marks out of 1200 and scored a cutoff of 196.75, which would have at least ensured her a seat in one of the three government medical colleges in Chennai, had the basis of admissions not changed entirely to NEET. Under NEET, it was impossible for her to pursue medicine with her scores.
According to a report by The New Indian Express, Madras Institute of Technology had offered a seat in aeronautical engineering, and Veterinary College at Orathanadu offered her a seat in the Bachelor of Veterinary Science.
In an interview to News 18 Tamil, Anitha said, “NEET is tougher for poor people than even for people from rural areas, as we don’t have the money to pay for coaching classes or the opportunity. 12th is the base for everything and we are going to at least study till 12th.”
While the plea of pro-NEET students was represented by Nalini Chidambaram, Anitha was a respondent and filed an affidavit, which was signed by her father since she was a minor. She went to New Delhi to fight for those students who would be disadvantaged if a NEET-based admission system was used.
But no relief came as the Supreme Court asked TN to conduct medical admission on the basis of NEET, after the centre refused to endorse TN’s draft ordinance seeking exemption for a year.
Changing the basis of admissions from 12th board scores to NEET was brutal on students from the State Board, as the questions were based on the CBSE syllabus. It had effectively ensured that a lot of students couldn’t pursue the courses they intended to, as they couldn’t qualify the NEET.
When questioned by Puthiya Thalamurai about whether she could understand the questions, she said that although it was said that most questions were supposed to be from the 12th syllabus, very few questions were familiar. When asked what alternate streams she would pick if she didn’t get a seat in medicine, she said that she would take up whatever she would get for her score.
According to a report in The Times of India, Anitha studied in an aided school till class 10, and was admitted to a school later with a partial fee waiver, and would have been the first doctor from the village if she had qualified.
People in need of counselling can contact Tamil Nadu Health Department’s round-the-clock helpline – 104. Chennai-based Sneha suicide prevention centre can be contacted at 044-24640050.