Many students in Tamil Nadu have received a seat in private colleges with the help of the reservation, but the families say that they can't afford the fees.

The certificates of NEET aspirants scrutinised by police officials
news Medical admissions 2020 Friday, November 20, 2020 - 18:18

Bhuvaneshwari from Tiruchy completed her medical counseling and came out of a waiting hall with a choked voice. She hails from Thottiyam village in Tiruchy and got a seat in a private medical college with the quota for Tamil Nadu government school students. But she signed up to remain in the waiting list of government medical colleges, since her family cannot afford the fees of private medical colleges. On Thursday, hundreds of medical aspirants like Bhuvaneshwari attended the second day of medical counseling at the Nehru outdoor stadium in Chennai’s Chepauk. However, the place witnessed several tears of disappointed aspirants, who had to give up their medical quota seats.

On October 20, Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit provided his assent to the quota bill that facilitates a reservation for government students clearing the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET). The Governor provided the assent a day after the state government took the executive route to implement the quota.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami on Wednesday inaugurated the counseling and said that the quota will provide admission for 400 government school students as against six students in the previous year. Bhuvaneshwari, one among the 400 students, who attended the counseling, received a seat in private colleges with the help of the reservation, but the family could not afford a medical seat by paying Rs 4 lakh a year. She scored 160 marks in NEET and ranked 405 under BC (Backward Class) community in government quota.

“My only hope is that I will get a seat in Ayurveda or Siddha medicine. However, my dreams of becoming a doctor are almost lost,” she says with tears in her eyes, and finding herself at a loss of words. Bhuvaneshwari is the first student to pass Class 12 in her family and is the eldest child of four daughters. Her father works as a priest at a temple and the family survives with the few hundred rupees given to him on a monthly basis.

As each hour passed by, students who were at the waiting hall after traveling for long distances started to lose hope. Many students like Bhuvaneshwari also came to Chennai with the help extended by their schools.

“I received help from school even to come to Chennai. They gave me Rs 15,000 but we cannot ask them for Rs 20 lakh, so I told her to sign and give up her seat in a private medical college. We just need to see if she will get any seat on the waiting list,” her disappointed father says.

18-year-old Vikram of Theppirampattu village in Vizhupuram district aspired to become a doctor. His parents are farmers who do not make profits and many times, even lost their small investments, but always encouraged their children to study. Vikram would walk three kilometers every day to reach his government school but not once did he complain, because he wanted to hold a stethoscope as the first doctor from his village. However, now Vikram’s financial condition is a drawback for him, forcing him to give up the seat.

Vikram, who has to return the same night as he cannot afford a lodge says, “I will get a seat in some private medical college in the state but my parents will not be able to afford them. The prospectors say that we need to pay Rs 4 lakh a year, which is an unimaginable sum for our family which earns Rs 4,000 a month.”

Vikram says, “I came from Vizhupuram to get a medical seat. I was really hopeful that I will get into one of the colleges in the state but now I am losing hope since the waiting list for government colleges is huge.”  

The 18-year-old student was accompanied by his mother Kavitha, who has never been to school, but was trying to retain the hope that her son will be the first graduate of her family. She says, “I do not know if my son will get a seat now but he should at least get a seat in the waiting list. If not, we can’t send him for coaching classes or spend money for him again for another year. But he is adamant and wants to prepare for one year for NEET.”

Vikram is also one among the government school students who did not attend private coaching centers in cities or take a break year to prepare for NEET. He scored 144 marks in the examination and secured 181 rank in MBC rank list with the help of online classes taken by the government for a few days.

“Even I will be happy if my son becomes a doctor and the quota by the government has helped us come till here, but money is the problem,” Kavitha says. Vikram’s village Theppirampattu is located 66 km from Villupuram district headquarters and many children have similarly travelled from interior villages to Chennai but faced disappointment.

Like Vikram, Sasikala of Cheyyar also wants to become a doctor to do social service to the people of her village. “We travel three kilometers to even reach the nearest Primary Health Care (PHC) Centre, so I want to become a doctor to help the people of my village,” she says.

Sasikala scored 132 in NEET but thinks she could have scored much better if not for the confusion around conducting the exam. “There was so much confusion and stress before the exam. I thought that the exam would be cancelled but it was not and we had to attend the exam amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” she says.

“But the same pandemic restricted us, and let us attend only a few online NEET classes conducted by the government. Government schools and the state should have provided us with some more training that would have helped us score well in the exam,” she adds.

Sasikala, who was most likely to get a seat in a private college, decided to give up the seats since her parents, who are farmers, cannot afford to pay the fees.  Her relative says, “The government is creating fear and making it a political issue but they can simply train the children for the exams. Even now, the government has provided quota without turning it political and similarly if they give us fees for the seats reserved for government school students, many students will benefit by this,” he opines.

However, a few parents are coming forward to take a leap of faith and wait for help. Father of Thasleema* encouraged her to take up a seat in a private college, by paying Rs 25,000, but the family continues to seek help for paying Rs 4 lakh fees per year for the next five years. Thasleema’s father, who does odd jobs, says, “I want to see my daughter as a doctor and she has worked hard for this. She wanted to become a doctor from a young age and it upsets me that my financial status is a barrier for her. The government that has provided the quota and should also provide help to pay the fees.”

“The government should understand that we admitted our children to government schools since we cannot afford the fees. Even now, I’m receiving loans from my friends to pay Rs 25,000 after I learnt from other parents that I need to pay the sum today (Thursday),” he says.

Thasleema’s father opines, “The aspirants who are writing the exam in the second attempt should have a separate quota and they should not come under this quota because if not for them, Thasleema would have received a seat in a government medical college.”

*Names changed on request