Families in Tamil Nadu Call for Abolition of NEET After Tragic Suicides, Citing Inequity

S Anitha, a bright Dalit student from Ariyalur district, became a symbol of resistance against the medical entrance examination in 2017. Despite scoring exceptionally well in her Class XII exams, she took her own life after failing to crack NEET.
Families in Tamil Nadu Call for Abolition of NEET After Tragic Suicides, Citing Inequity

Chennai: In Tamil Nadu, families affected by tragic suicides linked to the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) examination are advocating for its elimination — highlighting what they perceive as systemic disadvantages for underprivileged students. The controversy surrounding NEET has sparked nationwide protests, with allegations of paper leaks and mismanagement exacerbating concerns.

S Anitha, a bright student from Ariyalur district, became a symbol of resistance against the medical entrance examination in 2017. Despite scoring exceptionally well in her Class XII exams, the Dalit girl took her own life after failing to crack NEET. Her brother, SA Manirathnam, laments that NEET shattered her dream of becoming a doctor.

The school valedictorian and the daughter of a daily wage laborer, who cherished the ambition of becoming a doctor, was one of the initial petitioners to challenge the NEET before the Supreme Court.

Despite her efforts, the apex court ruled in favor of using NEET for medical admissions in Tamil Nadu. Tragically, just days after the court's decision, she took her own life on September 1, 2017. She had achieved an impressive 1176 out of 1200 marks in her Class XII board exams but could not clear the NEET examination.

Since NEET’s introduction in 2017, Tamil Nadu has recorded 26 student suicides attributed to the exam’s pressures. Families argue that NEET disproportionately affects students from poorer backgrounds, who lack access to resources and coaching.

Tamil Nadu was one of the initial states to voice opposition against NEET. In February 2017, the then AIADMK government initially passed a bill against the entrance examination in the state assembly, which was later withheld by then President Ram Nath Kovind.

Following the change in government to the DMK, the Tamil Nadu Assembly passed a bill in September 2021, aiming to eliminate NEET for admission to undergraduate medical courses within the state. Governor R N Ravi returned the bill to the assembly. Subsequently, on 8 February 2022, the Tamil Nadu assembly re-adopted the bill, which was then forwarded to the Ministry of Home Affairs. It currently awaits Presidential assent.

Despite legislative efforts in Tamil Nadu to exempt the state from NEET, controversies persist.

The recent decision to cancel grace marks for some NEET-UG 2024 candidates, sparking calls for a re-test, has further fueled dissatisfaction.

Critics argue that NEET undermines the credibility of Class XII board exams, which many feel should suffice for medical admissions. They advocate for reforms that prioritize equitable access to medical education, suggesting admissions based on Class XII performance as a fairer alternative.

In the face of ongoing grievances and tragic losses, families demand national reconsideration of NEET, emphasizing the need for a system that supports all aspiring medical professionals, regardless of economic status.

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