a ray of hope was generated by the Central Minister who made a public assurance that exemption from NEET would be granted to the State for one year, if the State approached the Centre.
Kuzhumur in Ariyalur district was an amanyuous village until it became suddenly known all over Tamil Nadu and beyond, for the wrong reason. The suicide of the seventeen year old medical aspirant, Anitha, has shaken the entire state, though, unfortunately, it has failed to shake the conscience of those who were indirectly responsible for her tragic end.
Anitha was born as the fifth child and only daughter of Thangavelu, who hoists loads in the market to eke out whatever he can to sustain himself and his family. Having been widowed when his children were mere kids, he toiled carelessly to give education to his children and the boys made full use of the opportunity and got whatever education they could.
Anitha, whose performance in the school was consistently excellent, started nursing the ambition of becoming a doctor, which did not seem to be impossible, given her performance in the school. In order to help her secure the maximum marks, her brothers, who used to shower their affection on her, put her in a school with a hostel so that she would devote her attention on her studies without any distraction.
She used to assure her villagers that once she became a doctor, she would give free treatment to everyone. And the village was eagerly waiting for the day when this darling of the village would become a doctor – in fact the first doctor of the village. When she secured 1176 marks out of 1200 in the Higher Secondary Examination, she thought that the admission for the medical college was in her bag. And so did everyone else.
Then came this NEET, she faced even that and secured 86 per cent, which was not enough for securing a medical seat despite her sterling performance in the Higher Secondary. Even then, she, like a number of other medical aspirants, was banking on the assurance given by the State Government that they would get exemption from NEET from the omnipotent government at the Centre. What followed was a see-saw between the State and the Centre. Even though the State Government passed two Bills demanding exemption from NEET, and duly forwarded it for the President’s assent, the Home Department at the Centre had put them in cold storage without bothering to act on them.
That is the respect the Centre has for a State government duly elected by the people of the State. Yet, the State Government went on assuring people that the exemption would certainly be obtained.
When the never ending game of going on, a ray of hope was generated by the Central Minister who made a public assurance that exemption from NEET would be granted to the State for one year, if the State approached the Centre.
The State government acted with alacrity, got the resolution passed and forwarded it to Delhi as fast as it could, only to be badly let down once again. Who would have thought that the words of a responsible minister would carry so little weight with the government at the Centre? The minister ended up with a lot of egg on her face.
In the meanwhile a public interest litigation was filed in the Supreme Court, and Anitha also had impleaded herself in the case.
The Supreme Court as was almost suspected refused to grant the necessary exemption to Tamil Nadu.
Then, only then, did Anitha realize that the curtain had been drawn and the tragic game was over. Even then, people least suspected that she would take away her own life, plunging the entire village in unbearable grief.
The whole state is now agitated that an innocent and studious girl born in a dalit family in a remote village must have taken this drastic step because she has been denied admission into the medical college despite her proven merit.
Strongly reacting to Anita’s death, Asiriyar K. Veeramani has gone thoroughly into the matter and has pointed out that there have been no entrance tests to professional courses in Tamil Nadu since 2007 and admissions have been based solely on the candidates’ performance in the Higher Secondary Examination, paving the way for a number of candidates of backward classes and rural areas, especially first generation learners, for becoming doctors. He has specially pointed out the admissions made in 2016, when 884 students joined medical colleges out of open competition, and 59 out of them were from backward classes, 159 out of most backward classes, 35 Muslims, 23 depressed class candidates, 1 tribal, leaving just 68 seats to the so called forward classes.
Asiriyar points out that these results were so unpalatable to the upper class people, that they came out with the nefarious idea of NEET, which was conducted by members of CBSE, based on the CBSE syllabus. As a result, while only 30 CBSE candidates could get into medical colleges in 2016, 1310 of them have made it in 2017, sheltering the dreams of candidates like Anitha, who fared excellently in the Higher Secondary Examination. In this case, the guilty parties are the innovators of NEET, namely the Government at the Centre and the Indian Medical Council.
While the Supreme Court has declared in its 2013 sitting headed by Justice Altamas Kabir that there was no need for NEET examination, where was the necessity for the somersault on the part of the Apex court in 2017?
The same Supreme Court which had asked for a compromise formula which would accommodate the aspirations of the State Board as well as the CBSE candidates, did not pull up the people who failed to come out with the formula. Is it not letting down people?
Asiriyar K. Veeramani has wondered with anguish whether law and justice exist only for the upper strata of the society? Should a worker’s daughter be prevented from becoming a doctor?
Pointing out the situation in the pre- Independence days when the knowledge of Sanskrit was made pre-requisite for admission into medical institution, Asiriyar states that the introduction of NEET is in no way different from that.
In fine, he has given a call for concerted effort on the part of the people in the form of popular struggle, as it happened in 1950 under the leadership of Periyar, until social justice is restored.
It looks as if Tamil Nadu is getting ready for it, so that Anitha’s death, or was it not murder – will be avenged.