Dr K.Veeramani President, Dravidar Kazhagam
The legislative route has been taken by Tamil Nadu to exempt it from NEET for admission to MBBS and BDS courses which come under the direct purview of the State Government. The issue has to come to a status positively by getting the due assent by the President of India for the passed Bills to become an Act so that the purpose can come into effect immediately. There arises an urgency as the formal announcement of NEET 2017 has already been made and the last date for applying to it is fixed as March 31, 2017 for which NEET will be conducted in the month of May. Though the bills have been passed unanimously in the Tamil Nadu State Assembly on 31st January, the formalities of realising it as Act are still with the Centre.
To the extent, the timely announcement for NEET 2017 is made by the authority which is under the control of the Centre, the Bills of the State are not given due recognition, to become Act. This puts the students of Tamil Nadu, aspiring to pursue medical courses in a dilemma whether to apply for NEET 2017 or not. It is a proven fact with the admission details in MBBS and BDS courses in Tamil Nadu, where the admissions were allowed based on the marks secured by the candidates in the pre-requisite course viz. +2 examinations, the net admission represented equitable distribution of seats among the students hailing from various communities, reflecting the dispensation of Social Justice as adumbrated in the Preamble of the Indian Constitution.
Equal treatment is ideal as well as equitable, when the treated people remain equal in all respects. But in this land, people do not remain equal. They have been discriminated against for centuries; thereby they were denied education and employment other than their family and traditional profession. To place the discriminated people on equal footing is again a discriminatory treatment. It is like removal of one thorn with planting another. Such follow up discrimination is not original in nature but of compensatory. This is the core principle involved in the dispensation of Social Justice.
This principle is equally applicable for NEET and other entrance tests. When all the student-candidates have not studied under a common education syllabus, how can they be justly assessed under common entrance tests? When the pattern of questions designed for NEET is based on one system of higher secondary education viz. Central Board of Secondary Education how would it suit the major section of the students who studied under the syllabus by the Tamil Nadu State Board of School Examination? Is it not a basically faulty approach, adopted by the Centre? This is nothing but unilateral use of power by the Centre under ‘Concurrent List’, but exercised as if the power is vested under ‘Union List’? Now that power exercised by the Centre is manifested in the form of delaying the President’s assent for the passed bill by Tamil Nadu State Legislative Assembly. When the Centre was fast enough in getting the assent of President for the ordinance followed Bill of Tamil Nadu to conduct Jallikattu, what negative inertia prevails in them for the exclusive bill passed to exempt Tamil Nadu from NEET?
A common education system is not possible in our country. So are the common tests for admission into educational institutions. When the learning system and social background are not common for all, common selection for the whole of the country will result in confusion, leading to chaos.
In Tamil Nadu, entrance tests were introduced in 1985 for professional courses mainly medical, engineering, agricultural and veterinary studies under the premise that standard candidates would get the opportunity to pursue the higher education. Dravidar Kazhagam opposed the introduction of entrance tests from the beginning itself, stating with evidence the premise of ‘standard’ was wrong. When the pattern of candidates selected through entrance tests was analysed by the authority, the premise of ‘standard’ was proved wrong. In 2004, entrance tests were abolished in the State, the execution of which could not withstand in the court of law. Again in 2007, an exclusive enactment was made in the State, which obtained the due assent of President. When the Act was challenged, the apex court upheld the validity of the Act, abolishing entrance tests.
In 2010, on the initiatives taken by the Medical Council of India (MCI) and Dental Council of India (DCI) entrance tests were introduced for the admissions to M.B.B.S and B.D.S courses and post graduate courses. When it was disputed in the court of law, the apex court clearly spelt out the MCI and DCI have only advisory role and they do not have any power in interfering with the admission processes, meant for medical courses.
The Centre had acted on behalf of MCI and DCI by introducing NEET for the year 2016, compulsory for all the States. But many states, including Tamil Nadu opposed NEET. Reckoning the stiff opposition, the Centre promulgated an ordinance at the last moment, to exempt the States which opposed NEET for the year 2016 alone.
Medical admissions were made in 2016 based on the marks secured by the applicants in their +2 examinations alone in Tamil Nadu. The pattern of selection reflected the dispensation of Social Justice by due admission of students hailing from different communities of the society. Out of the total seats of 884 seats, available for M.B.B.S under the direct purview of the State Government, meant for open competition, the pattern of selection of candidates for admission into the seats under open competition is:
Backward Classes: 599
Most Backward Classes: 159
Scheduled Castes: 23
Scheduled Tribes: 1
Forward Castes: 68
What better dispensation of Social Justice is possible than this, which was effected with the marks secured by the candidates in the pre requisite course and not through NEET?
Ours is the country of cultural pluralism and linguistic diversity, the influence of which would be reflected in socio, political and economic aspects. Each State is characterised with distinct features on these areas. In education sector also such diversity prevails. Any developmental initiatives without respecting these identities will not lead to progress. India is the Union of States; it is not unitary. Any attempt towards unitary system will weaken the fabric of integrity of the country. In a country of multi religions, patronising one religion will not serve the purpose. Bringing out unitary developmental policy will not create the resource scarce States to prosper. The same approach is applicable for education system also. A common education system is not possible in our country. So are the common tests for admission into educational institutions. When the learning system and social background are not common for all, common selection for the whole of the country will result in confusion, leading to chaos. ‘Unity’ must be the code word and not the ‘Uniformity’, for national integration.
In respect of the maintaining standards in the examinations, only the University is empowered to frame the questions and conduct the examinations. No other advisory bodies like Medical Council of India or Dental Council of India can substitute that role. In Tamil Nadu, only the M.G.R. Medical University is empowered to conduct examinations in respect of medical examinations for admission to post graduate courses. Similarly the Tamil Nadu State Board of School Education is empowered to conduct examinations for +2 examinations and the admission to undergraduate medical courses must be based on the marks, secured in the +2 examinations. Since major students in Tamil Nadu have studied under State Board of Secondary Education, the pre requisite course viz. + 2 examination marks must alone be reckoned and not the entrance test marks viz. NEET, conducted by Central Board of Secondary Education under CBSE syllabus. How can the NEET, conducted under the syllabus of CBSE (not even 2 percent of Tamil Nadu students study in it) be forced on the students who have studied under the State Board and who have aspired for admission into medical course? Since ‘Education’ comes under ‘Concurrent List’, the State is equally empowered to decide on education sector which comes under its direct purview. The unilateral decision to impose NEET on States is the challenge to the federal structure of Indian Constitution.
Legislative means for the decision taken by Tamil Nadu to distance NEET is an exercise to sustain the State power. The Bill to exempt TN from NEET has to be recognised duly by the Centre to complete the required formalities. Delaying it further will create unnecessary hardships for the students, whose uprising was already proved through impromptu agitation launched for ‘Jallikattu’.
The Centre has to be serious about it and must act swiftly.