The Tamil Nadu Governor Is Right; The State Needs NEET
Recent data shows that students from the economically and socially disadvantaged backgrounds are increasingly entering medical courses only due to the NEET system.
The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) government passed a resolution in the state assembly in September 2021 seeking exemption from the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) for the state and submitted the Bill to the Tamil Nadu Governor.
The Governor returned the Bill back to the state government for reconsideration on 1 February 2022. The press note released by the office of the Governor says he “is of the opinion that the Bill is against the interests of the students, specially the rural and economically poor students of the state.”
After four days, the DMK government convened a meeting of representatives of all the parties in the Tamil Nadu legislature to discuss the issue. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) did not participate.
The next day, the government announced that a special session of the assembly is to be convened on 8 February to pass a resolution seeking exemption once again and to send it to the Governor.
A detailed analysis of medical admissions in the previous year has revealed that students belonging to families from the backward, most backward, and scheduled castes got the most seats in the state medical colleges (Swarajya, June 2021).
Even in case of allotments under the general category, students in these categories got more seats over and above the quotas prescribed by the state.
Earlier, when admissions were taking place on the basis of the plus-two examination marks, the number of students who entered medical colleges from government schools were minimal. During 2006-16, only 213 students got admissions, an average of just 19 students per year.
It is true that Tamil Nadu students faced difficulties initially when NEET was introduced. It was because of two reasons.
One, both Dravidian parties and their allies were regularly providing assurance that NEET would not be introduced in the state. Hence, students were not fully prepared.
The second is the poor school education system. The school syllabuses remained outdated without revision for 12 years.
But after the revisions in 2018 and the introduction of coaching for NEET in state schools, the performance of students grew fast. As a result, the success rate of students who had taken the exams during 2020 was higher than the national average.
In just one year, the success rate of state students increased by 9 per cent. Besides, around 30 students from the state were able to join the premier all-India medical institutions.
More students from Tamil Nadu are appearing for NEET every year. Around 1.08 lakh students opted for NEET in 2021. Further, the number of students writing the exam in Tamil is also on the rise.
As the selection process is underway, the allotment details of all the students who wrote NEET in 2021 are not available. The allotments for students from government schools eligible for 7.5 per cent reservation is almost over. The available details show that 535 seats (435 medical and 100 dental) have been allotted.
Details reveal that students from the backward, most backward, and scheduled caste backgrounds have got more seats than the seats prescribed in the quotas this time too.
Students from backward castes have got 43 per cent seats, as against the 30 per cent prescribed; most backward castes, 31 per cent, as against the 20 per cent prescribed; and scheduled castes, 19 per cent, as against the 18 per cent prescribed. Only in the case of the scheduled tribes category was there a deviation by one seat.
As a result, all seats in the government medical colleges of the state have gone to students from these stated categories this year. It is the students from very poor families and underprivileged sections living in difficult circumstances, with a majority from the rural and upcountry areas, who have received admissions.
Anusha is from Perumbedu Kuppam in Tiruvallur district, whose parents are daily-wage earners. She studied at a local government school in Tamil medium and prepared for NEET from home without joining a coaching centre. She has received admission in the Government Medical College, Villupuram. She said NEET is not difficult.
Sathya is a physically challenged girl from Ganesapuram in Vellore district. Her parents work in a quarry, breaking stones as daily labourers. Studying in a local school, she got a seat in Government Medical College, Vellore.
Kalaiarasan is from Surappalli Sinnanur in Salem district. His parents are working in looms. Studying in Alamathur government school, he got admission in Madras Medical College, Chennai.
Joseph Sundersingh, who lost his father, is from Thirukkadaiyur in Mayiladuthurai district. He is living with his mother who is earning daily wages. He studied in government schools in Tamil medium, prepared for NEET from home, and is going to join a Government Medical College.
Sneka stood first in the state from the scheduled tribes category. Her father looks after the family with five daughters. He makes a living through a juice business on the road-side and by selling utensils during the summer. She has been selected in Stanley Government Medical College, Chennai.
These examples are just a sample from the socially and economically disadvantaged groups who are opting for the medical course. A great majority of them are going to be first-time graduates in their families.
Moreover, more students from the economically less-developed districts in the state are joining medical courses this year. Students from the districts of Dharmapuri, Pudukkottai, and Tiruvallur have got 33, 31, and 26 medical and dental seats respectively.
Tiruvannamalai, Kanchipuram, Villupuram, and Tenkasi district students have also got a good number of admissions.
For the first time in medical education, Tamil Nadu is witnessing a historic transformation. Students from ordinary backgrounds are entering medical colleges in metros and cities. The list of toppers at the all-India level for the OBC (non-creamy layer) category shows that two out of 10 are from Tamil Nadu.
Admissions during the previous year and allotments for government school students this year clearly prove that the maximum number of students from the economically and socially disadvantaged backgrounds are entering medical courses only due to the NEET system.
With there being more medical colleges in the state from this year, we will be witnessing a rise in the number of students from these sections every year in the future.
So, the argument of the DMK government and its supporting parties for scrapping NEET is not based on fact. The conclusions of the state-appointed Rajan Committee are biased. Tamil Nadu needs NEET to enable students from poor and ordinary backgrounds to get into medical colleges on the basis of merit, without paying higher amounts.
The Governor has taken a wise decision in returning the Bill. He should be supported in the interest of true social justice for Tamil Nadu.
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