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.
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