TN adopts bill to scrap NEET, Centre objects
- The bill, the Tamil Nadu Admission to Undergraduate Medical Degree Courses Act 2021 was passed by a voice vote.
All political parties except the Bharatiya Janata Party supported a bill that the Tamil Nadu assembly passed on Monday to scrap the National Entrance cum Eligibility Test (NEET) and admit students to undergraduate programmes in medicine on the basis of their performance in their Class 12 examinations — a move that the state government said was in the interest of “social justice”.
The bill, which does not have any bearing on this year’s admissions, will need the approval of the President, who denied the same to a similar law passed by the state’s previous All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government in 2017.
India’s higher education secretary Amit Khare said that if any state wants to opt out of the exam, it has to seek permission from the Supreme Court (SC), which, in August 17, mandated that Tamil Nadu must follow the practice across the country and admit students to undergraduate medical courses on the basis of their performance in NEET.
In Tamil Nadu, now ruled by a Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) government, the argument against NEET has been that it disadvantages students from rural and poor backgrounds (who cannot afford coaching); and those studying in boards other than the Central Board of Secondary Education.
Khare said that the syllabus covered by the National Testing Agency for NEET follows patterns of all the state education boards and not just the CBSE. “If still a state government has some other view about the NEET syllabus, which they have, it will have to seek the approval of the Supreme Court to break away from it,” he said.
The bill, the Tamil Nadu Admission to Undergraduate Medical Degree Courses Act 2021 was passed by a voice vote. It said its aim is to ensure “social justice, uphold equality and equal opportunity, protect all vulnerable student communities from being discriminated (against) and bring them to the mainstream of medical and dental education, and in turn to ensure a robust public healthcare across the state particularly the rural areas.”
NEET was conducted across India on Sunday; hours before that, a 19-year-old son of a farm labourer, was found dead ; he was to write the exam for a third time and police said that circumstantial evidence pointed to fear of failing. Since NEET was introduced, more than a dozen students, some of whom were toppers in class 12 have died by suicide either due to fear of failing or having failed NEET.
The AIADMK on Monday wore black badges blaming the DMK for the Salem student’s suicide. Former CM and leader of the opposition Edappadi Palaniswami said, “DMK failed to provide proper and timely information about whether NEET will be held this year or not... (Chief minister MK) Stalin stated that cancelling NEET will be one of the first tasks of the DMK government. But though they have come to power, NEET still remains.” Palaniswami said that his party supports the bill.
Inside the assembly, chief minister Stalin blamed the AIADMK for suicides during their regime and said they hid the fact that the President rejected the 2017 NEET Bill which was passed unanimously.
After coming to office in May, the DMK set up a committee led by retired justice A K Rajan to study the impact of NEET on socially and economically backward students. This was challenged by the BJP in the Madras high court, which ruled in favour of the state.
A senior NTA official said that several initiatives have been taken to help students writing competitive exams amid the pandemic. “The states rationalised their class 12 syllabus differently in view of the pandemic. To make things easier for students, NTA provided five extra questions in each category,” the official added, requesting anonymity. Judicial experts say that the state does not have the power to seek exemption from a parliamentary law. A Supreme Court order in August 2016 made NEET mandatory. However, the SC agreed to grant a one-year amnesty to several states who contended that students need time to prepare and hold the exam in the academic year 2017-18 onwards instead of 2016-17.