Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin on Monday, September 13 moved a Bill in the Tamil Nadu Assembly against the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) which also seeks a permanent exemption from the central medical entrance exam for the students of the state.
In the statement of objects and reasons in the Bill, the Tamil Nadu government said that the Bill aims to provide admission to undergraduate medical degree courses not through NEET, but on the basis of the marks obtained in the qualifying examination, through normalisation methods. This will be done “in order to ensure social justice, uphold equality and equal opportunity, protect all vulnerable student communities from being discriminated against,” the government has said. This will also enable bringing such students to the mainstream of medical and dental education, and in turn to ensure a robust public health care in the state, the government added.
“The experience of the past four years of NEET has shown that the exam has shattered the hopes and dreams of Tamil Nadu students aspiring for admissions to medical and dental courses, particularly, students from the socially and economically backward classes. The extra examination which students are compelled to face, other than the qualifying examination has caused huge financial burden to the students from socially and economically backward classes it festers inequality, as it favours the rich and more privileged class of society who are able to afford special coaching, apart from pursuing Class XII,” the statement of objects and reasons adds.
NEET “virtually barricades the underprivileged social groups from medical and dental education,” the statement adds. “This is against the very object of the equality clause enshrined in the Constitution, and it also infringes the right to education of the children from these underprivileged classes of society.”
The Bill was tabled a day after the death of a 20-year-old Dhanush in Salem district who allegedly took his own life over the fear of failing the exam for the third time. The state, over the years, has reported many suicides by students, mostly from economically weaker backgrounds who despite securing high marks in class XII were unable to crack the exam. Although the AIADMK staged a walkout during the session, party leader Edapaddi K Palaniswami said that they will fully support the Bill brought by the ruling DMK government.
Addressing the Assembly after tabling the Bill, Chief Minister MK Stalin said, “There is a notion that NEET can bring quality to the medical course and thus produce better doctors. However, competitive exams cannot improve the quality of education, he said.
The Chief Minister added that during the previous AIADMK regime, several suicides by NEET aspirants were reported, including the death of Anitha. “The AIADMK government did not act proactively and were quiet during these deaths,” Stalin said.
In the Assembly, members of the opposition party AIADMK were seen wearing a black badge to express their condolences to the death of a Salem youth who ended his life in the fear of failing the NEET exam for the third time. Later, they staged a walkout alleging they were not allowed to speak over the student’s death
Speaking to the media persons, AIADMK leader Palaniswami said, “DMK government should take responsibility for the death of Salem NEET aspirant. They failed to provide detailed and timely information about the NEET exam to be held this year or not. Due to lack of information, students and parents were in a dilemma about preparing for the entrance exam.”
Though AIADMK staged a walkout and subsequently expressed its support to the bill, the BJP MLAs were seen seated in the Assembly, but did not share their opinion on the NEET bill.
CM Stalin, after winning the Assembly election and forming office in May this year, ordered a panel headed by retired judge AK Rajan to study the impact of NEET and its implication among students of government schools and economically weaker backgrounds on June 5.
The panel in subsequent months sought public opinion about NEET and its effect on the students of the state. In due course the panel composed of educationalists and higher officials of the education department submitted a report to the Chief Minister Stalin.