Student suicide over NEET echoes in Assembly, House adopts Bill to exempt TN from test

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin

Chennai: The Tamil Nadu Assembly on Monday adopted a Bill to dispense with the National Entrance-cum-Eligibility Test (NEET) and provide for admission to medical courses based on Class XII marks to ensure social justice.

The Bills adopted in 2017 for the same purpose during the AIADMK regime did not get the President's assent.

The Bill's passage comes against the backdrop of the suicide of a medical aspirant fearing outcome of the national test he was to take and the incident echoed in the House, with the main opposition AIADMK targeting the government.

Chief Minister M K Stalin introduced the Bill and all parties, including the main opposition AIADMK and its ally PMK, besides others like Congress, supported it and it was passed by a voice vote.

It seeks to provide for admission to UG courses in medicine, dentistry, Indian medicine and homeopathy on the basis of marks obtained in the qualifying examination, (Class XII). The opposition BJP staged a walkout, protesting against the government move.

Earlier, as soon as the House convened, Leader of the Opposition K Palaniswami referred to the suicide of 19-year-old Dhanush in his native Salem district on Sunday and targeted the government on the matter.

He said that though the DMK had promised "cancelling" NEET, it was not done and several students had not prepared well. Some of his remarks were expunged by Speaker M Appavu.

Palaniswami sought a job for a person from the deceased's family, besides cash assistance.

The opposition party MLAs, who came to the House wearing black badges, staged a walkout, led by Palaniswami.

On Sunday, hours before he was to appear for NEET for a third time, Dhanush, belonging to a village near Salem, died by suicide, fearing the outcome of the test he was to take. The incident triggered a blame game, with the AIADMK holding the DMK regime responsible for the death and the state government targeting the Centre.

Stalin, in his reply, said NEET was conducted for the first time in Tamil Nadu when Palaniswami was the Chief Minister and was not held even when the late J Jayalalithaa was the CM.

Recalling the death by suicides of students, including S Anita, in recent years, he said all these happened when Palaniswami was the CM.

The student, Dhanush, who took the extreme step, could not clear the exam twice when the AIADMK was in power.

Stalin also targeted the AIADMK over rejection of Bills enacted during its regime in 2017 to get the state exempted from the ambit of NEET and also for "hiding" it from the House.

Stalin introduced the Bill and appealed to all to support it for social justice, indicating that this initiative would be different from what was done during the AIADMK regime.

When the Bill was taken up for consideration hours later, Palaniswami recalled the efforts taken by the AIADMK government to exempt Tamil Nadu from the ambit of NEET, including adoption of two Bills in 2017. Later, he said the AIADMK government provided 7.5 per cent internal reservation to government school students in admission to medical courses who cleared NEET.

On Stalin saying that the current effort was different from what was done during the AIADMK regime, the leader of the opposition said the only difference was a reference to the recommendations of a high-level panel, led by Justice A K Rajan.

Palaniswami also pointed to the Central enactments and a judgment of the Supreme Court on this subject and considering such aspects, asked whether the state Bill could prevail. Eventually, he said the AIADMK however supported the Bill.

The CM welcomed the support of the main opposition party to his government's move on NEET and recalled that in the past, when the DMK was in the opposition, it supported the then AIADMK government on the issue of jallikattu, the bull-taming sport.

When BJP's Nainar Nagendran insisted that NEET had its benefits and said that the pass percentage, vis-a-vis the test from TN, was on the rise, he saw intervention from Ministers.

When Nagendran said NEET was like only an exam like the IAS and TN Public Service Commission, Finance Minister Palanivel Thiaga Rajan said such exams had other features as well, including interviews and this comparison was not correct.

The BJP MLA should also specify if he was making a reference from any reports and avoid generalisation when he spoke on pass percentage in subjects like anatomy and biochemistry (after NEET's introduction), the Minister said.

Stalin said aspects like pass percentage were not important. So far 15 aspirants have died by suicide and keeping such factors in mind, the Bill has been moved. "Our goal is that their sacrifices should not go waste," he said.

Opposing the Bill, Nagendran led his party's walkout, protesting against the bill.

Later, the TN Admission to Undergraduate Medical Degree Courses Bill, 2021, was declared adopted by Speaker Appavu.

The Bill, referring to recommendations of a high-level committee, said the government has decided to enact a law to dispense with the requirement of NEET for admission to UG Medical courses.

Providing for admission to such courses on the basis of marks obtained in Class 12 and through "Normalisation methods", the statement of objects and reasons said this is to ensure "social justice, uphold equality and equal opportunity."

This is also to protect all vulnerable student communities from being discriminated and bring them to the mainstream of medical and dental education and in turn to "ensure a robust public health care across the state, particularly the rural areas."

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