A 19-year-old tribal student from Tamil Nadu’s Coimbatore district has become the first person from her community to clear the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET). M Sangavi, who belongs to the Malasar tribal community in Nanjappanur village in Madukkarai taluk, was also the first from her settlement to complete Class 12. She also made headlines last year for her long-drawn struggle to receive a Scheduled Tribe (ST) certificate, which she later received after the District Collector’s intervention. Malasars are a designated Scheduled Tribe in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
Sangavi scored 202 out of a total of 720 marks in NEET 2021, for which the cut-off for ST students is 108-137. She said that amid her two-year struggle to receive the caste certificate, her father passed away and her mother had an eye surgery. Sangavi then enrolled at a private coaching institute in Saravanampatti earlier this year, but could not continue attending classes there due to the COVID-19 lockdown. She had attempted NEET in 2018 after completing Class 12, but could not clear it at the time. Following this, she was not able to pursue higher studies because she did not have a caste certificate. The New Indian Express reported that revenue officials claimed they could not establish Sangavi’s connection to the Malasar tribe, as both her parents did not have caste certificates either.
“I didn’t have electricity at home. My father had passed away, my mother had eye problems and had to be taken care of, so I found it very difficult. Even while writing the exam, I was sad that I had lost my father,” Sangavi said. Speaking to India Ahead, she said that her father had supported her in her struggle to receive the caste certificate, but she got it only a month after his passing.
Sangavi’s mother Vasanthamani said she is very proud of her daughter for venturing into the city alone to study for NEET and for cracking the exam. She said that the nearest healthcare centre is far away from their settlement in Madukkarai, and that many from their community succumb to illness or injuries before they are able to receive medical treatment. She added that for this reason, she is happy that Sangavi is studying medicine.
A proud Sangavi also echoed this view. “I always wanted to be a doctor from when I was a child because I have seen my people struggle. If I become a doctor, I want to serve the people in my village or those in other villages who are struggling due to lack of medical facilities. That’s why I dreamt of becoming a doctor,” she said.
Sangavi added, “There are many people in my village who do not send their children to school, they send them to the same daily wage work that they were doing. When I saw all this, I felt I should come forward and grow so that other children also get inspired and move forward. I’m very proud to have come from such a village and I hope that more children from here will follow my path.” She said that she wants to study medicine in a government institution now that she has cleared NEET.