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Suicide over NEET sparks political turmoil in Tamil Nadu assembly

Opposition parties in Tamil Nadu are up in arms against NEET, arguing that the state, which has the third highest number of medical seats after Karnataka and Maharashtra, should reserve seats for locals instead of allowing candidates from other states to get admission after qualifying NEET.

tamil nadu Updated: Jun 06, 2018 00:03 IST
CS Kotteswaran, Hindustan Times, Chennai
Tamil Nadu assembly,NEET,suicide
In Tamil Nadu 24,720 students opted to appear for NEET. According to officials, 1,337 students from government schools qualified in the exam.(HT/Photo for representation)

A 17-year-old girl’s suicide after failing to qualify for the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) for admission to undergraduate medical education courses in the country has led to tension and triggered protests in Tamil Nadu on Tuesday.

S Prathiba of Peruvallur in Villupuram district consumed poison on Monday after low scores in NEET. Another girl named Keerthiga of Mundiyambakkam in the same district also consumed poison and is now battling for life.

The developments sparked a war of words between the ruling AIADMK and opposition DMK in the state assembly, where the latter contended that the state has failed to protect the interests of Tamil Nadu’s students aspiring to study medicine.

DMK leader MK Stalin and the Congress moved a special call attention motion on Prathiba’s death, and wanted to know the status of the two resolutions sent to the Centre for President’s nod seeking NEET exemption for Tamil Nadu.

The two parties staged a walkout from the assembly protesting the state government’s “failure in seeking Tamil students’ exemption from NEET”.

Opposition parties in Tamil Nadu are up in arms against NEET, arguing that the state, which has the third highest number of medical seats after Karnataka and Maharashtra, should reserve seats for local candidates instead of allowing candidates from other states to get admission after qualifying NEET.

“Tamil Nadu has around 5,600 medical seats, but why lose medical seats to students from other states? There is no social justice in the state,” said DMK legislator Thayagam Kavi.

In Tamil Nadu, 24,720 students opted to appear for NEET. According to officials, 1,337 students from government schools qualified in the exam.

PMK founder Ramadoss blamed the Palaniswami government for the poor show by Tamil Nadu’s students in NEET. “Tamil students are at a disadvantage due to the poor foundation provided to them for taking up competitive exams,” he alleged.

Tamil Nadu Congress committee leader Su Thirunavukarasu said, “The deceased Dalit student would have easily become a doctor with her top marks in Class 12 if there was no NEET. The Modi government last year killed Anitha and this year Prathiba,” he alleged.

Under fire from the opposition, health minister C Vijaybhaskar said that the state government is against NEET and it made representations to the central government, including PM Modi, but the issue reached Supreme Court and the state has to adhere to the court’s orders.

School education minister KA Sengottaiyan condoled Prathiba’s death and urged students not to take extreme steps due to exam failures.

Parents of both Prathiba and Keerthiga blamed NEET and said their daughters took the extreme step due to poor marks.

“The NEET results came when I was away from home. I would have saved my daughter if I was at home. When I returned, my daughter was vomiting and weeping and saying she would not trouble me anymore. She said she was upset with her marks and her dream of becoming a doctor had been shattered,” said Shanmugotham, Prathiba’s father.

TAMIL NADU VS NEET
INITIAL WORRY The proposal to hold a single national entrance exam for medical seats was in the works for some time. In 2013, when the UPA regime wanted to hold NEET for MBBS and postgraduate courses, the then TN CM Jayalalithaa had opposed it. She wrote to the then PM Manmohan Singh saying NEET implementation would affect social justice.
IN THE COURT TN was also a party to petitions filed before the Supreme Court on NEET. Subsequently, a three-member bench quashed the Medical Council of India notification for holding NEET. The DMK, an ally of Congress during UPA regime, had also opposed NEET
REASONS TN OPPOSED NEET The state has the third largest number of medical seats (3,534) spread over 33 medical colleges, including 22 government colleges. The worry was that a national exam would mean merit alone rather than social justice would impact who will get seats. Also, fear was that non-TN aspirants could grab a bulk of the state’s seats
NO BENEFITS? TN directorate of medical education department sources say over the past six years, five government medical colleges have been established at Sivagangai, Thiruvannamalai, Omandurar Government Estate, Chennai and ESIC Hospital, Coimbatore and Pudukottai, resulting in an increase of 1,000 additional MBBS seats at a cost of ₹3,000 crore. While the addition was being done by TN govt at huge expense, they felt it would not benefit the state’s students.

DMK and Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) cadres thronged Prathiba’s residence and paid their last respects. Peruvallur villagers staged a protest in front of Villupuram government hospital and refused to accept the 17-year-old’s body.

Revenue officials had to intervene and pacify villagers and eventually handed over the body to her family after autopsy.

Last year, a 17-year-old girl, S Anitha, who had scored 1176 out of 1200 marks in her Class 12 board exams but was unable to join the MBBS course because of poor scores in NEET, committed suicide. She had impleaded herself as one of the respondents in a Supreme Court case challenging NEET.

In her petition to the apex court, Anitha, the daughter of a daily wage labourer, had said that rural students would not be able to compete against the students from cities if a common entrance exam is held for medical college seats.

First Published: Jun 05, 2018 20:47 IST