Tamil Nadu chief minister, M.K. Stalin proposed an anti-NEET bill in the state legislative assembly on Monday. The main intention of the bill is to permanently exclude Tamil Nadu from giving the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA) every year. This came after the suicide of 19-year-old Danush, a medical aspirant from Selam district, who died prior to the examination. The opposition staged a walkout during the proposal, but is willing to support the resolution.
“This is the problem faced by India, by gaining the support of all the CMs we will succeed,” said Stalin. He ensured that his government will see the bill seeking exceptions from the NEET through. The anti-NEET bill claims that NEET is not an equitable method for medical graduation courses. The exam is structured such that children belonging to rural and poor families are unable to attend proper facilitation for the exam. “On average, government school students made up 1.12% of the first-year MBBS batch in Tamil Nadu pre-NEET. The figure dropped to 0.16% post-NEET (unreserved seats). Last year, the state government introduced a 7.5% horizontal reservation for state-run school students,” said a report by the Indian Express. The bill has been proposed to uphold social justice along with providing an equal opportunity to all the medical aspirants preparing for graduation in medicine. It is to also protect vulnerable communities against discrimination. By excluding NEET, the state government is planning to enroll students to join medical schools by assessing their class 10 and 12 marks. The bill aims to produce medical graduates from all sections of the society and provide robust healthcare across Tamil Nadu, especially in the rural regions of the state.
While the Dravida Munnetra Kazhakam (DMK) was already in support of the bill, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhakam (AIDMK) leader and former chief minister, K. Palaniswani announced their support for the bill after the walkout from the assembly. He claimed that the aspirants were always confused regarding the state government’s take on NEET, and that the vague stand taken by the state government had resulted in losing an aspirant’s life. Stalin responded to these allegations, calling them untrue. He claims that the NEET exam was first conducted in Tamil Nadu during the tenure of Palaniswami with more student deaths reported, and that the test was not even conducted during the term of the late former CM Jayalalitha.
The NEET exam was conducted across the country for class 12 passout students on September 12. It is an undergraduate entrance test for securing admission in medical schools. This year, due to the lack of clarity and COVID-19 restrictions, many students, parents and politicians had appealed to the Supreme Court regarding the cancellation of the exam. In many regions of the country, students didn’t receive admit cards, and faced a lack of communication. The scheduled exam date also happened to overlap with other state and central examinations such as the CBSE compartment exams. The apex court had rejected the plea to postpone the exam and notified the NTA to conduct the NEET as per schedule.
It has been a decade since Tamil Nadu banned the NEET. The state government argues that the exam structure favours aspirants from the urban sections and rich households, and that the aspirants from poor and rural backgrounds aren’t given a fair chance since they can’t afford or access proper coaching for the exam. This leads to students suffering from depression and often attempt suicide. The NEET was introduced during the UPA government, of which DMK was an ally. The then chief minister, Karunanidhi had got presidential approval for a state exemption from NEET for Tamil Nadu. But the same was not granted by the BJP to its ally – the AIDMK – when it came to power. Nevertheless, they have managed to pass the bill in the state assembly.