The Supreme Court's eleventh-hour stay on the Madras High Court's directive to CBSE to set up additional NEET centres within Tamil Nadu has sparked massive outrage within the state.
The stay follows CBSE's move challenging the Madras High Court's order on April 27 ordering setting up of centres for the Tamil Nadu students who were allocated centres far away from home in Kerala, Karnataka and Rajasthan.
CBSE's move against the HC order came just a few days before NEET was slated to take place on the May 6. Following this the Supreme Court stayed the High Court order, leaving the students in a fix.
Students are angry with the NEET administration, but NEET director says that they tried their best to accommodate all students within the state.
Speaking to TNM, Sanyam Bharadwaj, NEET Director (New Delhi) said, "Last year 82,000 candidates appeared for NEET from Tamil Nadu itself. We were able to accommodate all of them within the state. However, this year the number of candidates has risen by 31 percent. We increased the number of centres in Tamil Nadu by 25 percent and have even asked centres to accommodate students to its full capacity. A total of 1,07,480 students have registered from Tamil Nadu alone. Out of this, maybe about 1000 or 1500, were given the nearest available centres in neighbouring cities."
He further stated that decision to allocate centres outside Tamil Nadu had only been taken as all centres were filled up in the State.
"NEET centres need to have a certain level of infrastructure in place, which is why we cannot add more centres in Tamil Nadu now. Further, the board has taken care to allocate centres in the nearest city to every candidate who has been allowed out-station centres, taking their choices into consideration. Those who are appearing in Delhi or far away cities to write the exam have only been allotted these centres out of their choice." Sanyam added.
He also added that there would be no confusion with regard to students with outstation centres receiving question papers in the language of their choice.
"All students who have opted to write the paper in Tamil have been allotted centres within Tamil Nadu. Students with centres outside of TN will be given question papers in English, which is what they have opted for," he said.
However, the regional CBSE office in Chennai said that 5,371 students from the state will have to write the examination from centres in Ernakulam. According to them, the students had chosed Ernakulam as their second or third choice. They were not willing to disclose how many students had been allotted to centres in Rajasthan or Karnataka.
However, Tamil Nadu is up-in-arms against the Supreme Court's stay. Reacting to the stay, several prominent figures within Tamil Nadu have taken to social media in protest.
Actor turned politician Kamal Haasan tweeted,"In this digital age, it is injustice to make Tamil students run to Kerala, Rajasthan for writing NEET. They can write from here, right? The government and administration should make arrangements for this.”
DMK spokesperson Saravanan Annadurai said, "Absolute shocker in the #NEET Centre issue in the Supreme Court. The order asking the students to travel thousands of kilometres to write an exam reeks of elitism. Who will bear the cost and inconvenience? Is that not the direct result of the incompetence of the CBSE which conducts it?”
Director Pa Ranjith accused the state government of being the Central Government's shadow for not being able to address the plight of NEET students who have to travel out of TN for the exams.
Despite the furore, NEET authorities have confirmed that no reallocation of centres would be done now as the exam is slated to be held within two days.
Note: The headline has been updated to reflect the conflicting claims made by CBSE officials.