While returning the NEET Bill back to the state Government for re-consideration on 1 February 2022, the Governor of Tamil Nadu had pointed out the biased nature of the Rajan Committee Report. The High Level Committee to study the impact of NEET on medical admissions in Tamil Nadu under the chairmanship of Justice A K Rajan was appointed by the DMK government in June 2021. The Report of the Committee is the basis for the Bill passed by the state Government.
The Governor finds the Report “utterly unconvincing” and notes that it “… merely reflects the jaundiced view of the High Level Committee.” The Governor’s letter to the Speaker of the legislative assembly further mentions that “the report is based on several unsubstantiated sweeping assumptions” and mentions some of them. They are:
- “NEET is directionless”
- “NEET is anti-merit. It enables and empowers comparatively low-performing students to get admission to MBBS”
- “NEET has paved the way for entry of poorly skilled candidates who are financially and socially strong and thus will make the medical profession dominated by low quality professionals”
- “NEET discourages complex thinking and high order of skilling compared to State Board Examinations.”
One finds it difficult to comprehend how such statements could be made in a state-appointed Committee Report after the NEET was introduced with the approval of the Supreme Court. But there are many such statements throughout the Report. Some more:
- “NEET does not seem to help achieve the much required diversity” (p.7)
- “Students have to pay a hefty fee for private coaching to get prepared for the NEET, which only the affluent and rich people could afford to. Such negative consequences have already discouraged and prevented the most vulnerable communities, like socially depressed and backward, educationally and geographically backward, and those who studied in Higher Secondary schools in Tamil medium and that too in Government, who enjoyed so far at least a little number of enrolments, though disproportionate, before the NEET” (pp.7-8)
- “Past few years of its application in medical admission indicates that the NEET has caused an unprecedented havoc and setback to the students of different social, economic and demographic denominations aspiring for medical studies” (p.12)
- NEET is “ …… a discrete arbitrary framework that is politically driven” (p.13)
- “ …. the union government making it mandatorily a sole criterion for admission into medical colleges, is a flaw, eccentrical and an injustice against both the spirit of the constitution and people of the country” (p.29)
The Governor’s letter also points out that the Report ignores “the sorry state of affairs in the Government schools” and blames only the NEET for the meagre number of students getting admissions in medical courses.
To quote: “Statistics cited in the Report shows that in the pre-NEET system only some 30-38 students (hardly 1 per cent) from the Government schools were able to get admission in Government medical colleges. It reflects the sorry state of affairs in the Government schools which mostly cater to the poor students. Ignoring this crucial fact coming in the way of social justice, the Report instead goes off the tangent and blames NEET.”
The Report blames the NEET for everything using conveniently chosen data selectively. But there also it has failed. The real problem for the poor performance of the State Board and the Tamil medium students lies in the school education system, which the Report is ardently trying to hide.
It is an open secret that over the last many years, many parents have been taking their children out of the Tamil medium and the Government schools and are placing them in the private matriculation and the CBSE schools. The successive state Governments are also aware of the closure of several Tamil medium schools over the past decade, much before the introduction of NEET.
The Report interprets the data to suit its convenience and makes conclusions based on partial figures. Presenting the number of students who have studied 12th standard under the State Board system and their size (Table 7.7), it compares the number of Tamil and English medium students between 2011 and 2020. Then it says that in the post-NEET period, the Tamil medium students size went down by 24.8 per cent whereas that of the English medium rose to 8.4 per cent between the period of 2017 and 2020.
It fails to take into account that the number of students studying in English medium have continuously been increasing since 2011, but considers only the post-NEET period and make conclusions. In fact, the increase in the number of English medium students between 2011 and 2016 was as high as 42.6 per cent. Before the introduction of NEET, an average 14,569 students per year were joining English medium, but post- NEET, it was only 6,920 students per year. But this was ignored.
Similarly, while presenting the number of students studying in three different types of schools, namely government, government aided and private in Table 7.9, the Report says: “The trend indicates that until 2016, both the Govt. Schools and Govt. Aided Schools have managed their student size stable, while the private schools showed steady growth in its student size. Post-NEET period, in the cases of Govt. and Govt. Aided Schools, the student size fell down by 18.5 per cent and 14.1 per cent respectively, whereas, in the same period, the private schools have maintained their student strength much unaltered”.
The actual percentage figures in the Table from 2011 to 2016 reveal that there was a decline of students from the government schools from 48.12 per cent to 44.85 per cent and the government aided schools from 30.56 per cent to 27.34 per cent. Besides the increase of students in the private schools from 2011 to 2016 was higher, but the Report ignores it.
Moreover, the Report refuses to present the data leaving the columns blank while making conclusion regarding MBBS admissions during the pre-NEET and the post- NEET periods from the different types of schools, medium of instruction and management. It hides the data, by failing to provide it in public, as it would be apparently against its pre-decided conclusions.
Hence there is no data for admissions from the government and the private schools from 2010-11 to 2013-14. But the data obtained through the RTI reveals that the admissions from government schools were between 18 and 23 students during these years, averaging 20 annually.
At the same time, it cannot hide the facts completely as they are visible. So it had to accept that during the pre-NEET years, the Tamil medium students obtained a “little share” and the government students “achieved a little number of seats, though it was so little.”
Moreover, one could understand from the Report that even during the pre-NEET year 2016-17, the share of government school students getting medical admissions was 0.9 per cent while it was 99.05 per cent for private schools. Similarly, during the post-NEET year 2020-21, the share of government school students was 8.42 per cent. Besides, during the post –NEET period also, the students from the State Board getting admissions into medical colleges increased from 2,303 in 2017-18 to 2,789 in 2020-21. Hence their own data disprove much of their conclusions.
Basically the very constitution of the committee is not balanced. Two third of the members are the higher officials of the state government. Apart from the Chairman, the two other individual members are those who oppose NEET. One of them is a senior communist activist, who vehemently opposes all the policies of the central government. The other is an academic from engineering backgrounds. There is not even one experienced academic from the field of medical education.
While arguing for exemption, the government claims that they are speaking for 80 million Tamils in the state and they had received opinions from one lakh persons on NEET. Hence it says that the Report must be accepted by all. But the Report mentions that it received submissions from 86,342 persons, almost all of them through e-mails. Even when we take the population of the state during 2011 (72 millions approximately), the percentage of people who gave their opinion was 0.001. Among them, while 75.29 per cent opposed NEET, 21.96 percent supported it.
In its conclusion, the Report states: “…… if NEET continues for a few more years, the healthcare system of Tamil Nadu will be very badly affected. There may not be enough doctors for being posted at the various Primary Health Centres. There may not be enough expert doctors for being employed in the Government Hospitals. Further the rural and urban poor may not be able to join the medical courses. Ultimately Tamil Nadu may go back to pre-independence days, where in small towns and in villages only “bare-foot” doctors were catering for the needs were available. Tamil Nadu as a State would go down in the rank among States, in the Medical and Health Care system”. (p.146)
There is no doubt that this report - poorly drafted with many errors-, is completely one-sided. It is full of rhetoric with high political overtones. From the beginning it proceeds with a preconceived notion putting all the blame on the NEET, while burying every other thing under the carpet.
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