TN Guv returns NEET Bill: Opposition MPs raise issue in Parliament, stage walkout

MPs from the Congress, DMK, and TMC staged a walkout from Rajya Sabha over the Tamil Nadu Governor returning the Bill that aims to exempt the state from NEET.
Opposition MPs staging protest in the well of the Rajya Sabha
Opposition MPs staging protest in the well of the Rajya Sabha
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Members of Parliament from three Opposition parties staged a walkout from the Rajya Sabha on Friday, February 4, over the Tamil Nadu Governor returning the anti-NEET Bill to the Assembly. On Thursday, Governor RN Ravi had returned to the state government the Bill seeking an exemption to the state from the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), saying it went against the interests of rural and economically poor students.

MPs from the DMK, TMC and the Congress entered the well of the House demanding a discussion on the issue. Chairman Venkaiah Naidu, however, said that the MPs could raise the issue during their response to the President’s Address.

On Thursday, too, members of the DMK and the Congress walked out of the Lok Sabha demanding recall of Ravi, taking exception to his decision to return the NEET Exemption Bill.

DMK floor leader TR Baalu expressed shock over Ravi's decision to return the NEET Exemption Bill, contending that it was against the interest of the students of the southern state, especially poor students and those from the rural areas.

The Tamil Nadu government, meanwhile, announced an all-party meeting to discuss the future course of action. The DMK government, which is steadfastly opposed to NEET, assured all steps for adopting the bill again in the Assembly, adding, the Governor's opinions will be studied and the "truth about NEET explained."

A government release recalled that while the state Assembly had in September adopted the bill and sent it to the Governor to be forwarded to the President for his assent, the same was not done, following which Stalin met Ravi and insisted on sending it to the President.

Taking to Twitter, Stalin recalled that DMK founder and late chief minister CN Annadurai had a long ago wondered if a Governor was required for a state. The CM also later wrote to the leaders of various political parties that have representation in the 234-member Assembly, including the AIADMK, BJP, PMK and the Left parties inviting them for the all-party meeting on Saturday.

The Governor's decision comes months after Chief Minister MK Stalin met him in November and urged him to forward the bill to the President for his assent, besides an all-party meeting chaired by the latter last month where it was decided to put up a unified legal battle against the central qualification exam. 

NEET has emotional undertones in the state in the backdrop of suicides of medical aspirants, either for failing to clear it or due to apprehensions over scoring low marks.

Abolition of NEET is a poll promise of the DMK, which sailed to power in May 2021 after a 10 year-stint in the opposition. Barring BJP, all other parties in Tamil Nadu are opposed to NEET.

In September 2021, while batting for doing away with NEET, the Assembly bill had said the entrance test is not a fair or equitable method of admission since it favoured the rich and elite sections of society. 

Quoting the high-level committee led by Justice A K Rajan, retired judge of the Madras High Court, the preamble in the bill had then said, the panel, on making a detailed study concluded that if NEET continued for a few more years, the health care system of Tamil Nadu would be very badly affected and there may not be enough doctors for postings in Primary Health Centres or state-run hospitals and that the rural and urban poor may not be able to join the medical courses.

Meanwhile, Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) MP Anbumani Ramadoss called for an urgent sitting of the state Assembly to once again adopt a bill against NEET and send it to the Governor. Describing Ravi returning the bill as "unfortunate," he said it was "unacceptable that the Governor has opined it is against the interests of rural and economically poor students."

"His decision is against social justice," he said in a series of tweets.

CPI State Secretary R Mutharasan also hit out at the governor's decision, and said it was against the feelings of the people of the state. “NEET has been inimical to the interests of the students of Tamil Nadu ever since it was introduced,” he said in a statement. "To ensure the welfare of the students of Tamil Nadu and social justice, the state government should once again send the bill to the Governor," he added.

(With PTI inputs)

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