In a rare display of solidarity, AIADMK leader O Pannerselvam echoed the DMK government’s demand to abolish the National Eligibility Entrance Test (NEET) and similar national level examinations in a letter he wrote on Sunday to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
A day earlier on June 5, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin had requested PM Modi to cancel NEET, and all other national-level examinations. The CM had further asked that the state should be allowed to fill the professional seats, including MBBS with the marks secured by students in their Class 12 final examination.
Supporting the DMK stand, the former deputy CM, O Pannerselvam (OPS) in his letter to PM Modi, pointed out that till her death in 2016, the late CM J Jayalalithaa too had strongly opposed the examination. The AIADMK government had adopted two Bills in 2017 but it was futile, he wrote, said News Minute.
Strangely, this letter to PM Modi seems to have been emanated from OPS only. It has been noted by political observers that the infighting in the AIADMK between the two top leaders seems to have spilled out into the open with both sides sending out separate statements from the same party.
The NEET issue, which has been a sore point, particularly among rural students in the state, however had made it to the manifesto of both Dravidian parties in the recently concluded 2021 Assembly election. While the DMK assured that it would pass a law to abolish NEET, the AIADMK had promised to set up high-quality coaching centres in every district to train students who aspired to sit for NEET.
Meanwhile, in his letter to PM Modi, OPS highlighted one of the major reasons for the state’s continuous objection to NEET since it became effective in 2017 in the state. He pointed out to the PM that it would be extremely difficult for students from socially and economically backward groups to take the exam since it is based on the NCERT-CBSE curriculum. And, these students were also not in a position to pay the fees charged by coaching centres.
Therefore, it becomes challenging for students from marginalised communities in Tamil Nadu to pursue medical education, he said.
Further, he lauded the recent sanction for 11 medical colleges for TN, besides the AIIMS in Madurai and cancellation of the 12th class CBSE board examination. This is all well received and highly appreciated, added Panneerselvam in his letter.
However, he urged the government to take a “uniform policy decision to abolish not only the NEET for enrolment in medical courses but also the common entrance examinations for all the professional and other courses forever.” The Centre should allow states to make admission based on the marks obtained by students in their higher secondary examination and “for which act of kindness, the people of Tamil Nadu will ever be grateful to you,” the AIADMK leader said.
According to the Dravidian parties, NEET and other national level exams goes against social justice by denying opportunities to students from disadvantaged groups and students from rural areas. NEET’s syllabus often requires rigorous coaching in private centres, in order to adapt to the new CBSE-based syllabus, which is inaccessible in rural areas and completely unaffordable for the poor.
Media reports have observed that this has deprived many first-generation learners, particularly from marginalised communities, of medical seats they would have got under the previous system. NEET continues to be one of the most hotly debated political issues in TN. In fact in 2020, the AIADMK government had filed a petition in the Supreme Court, seeking to abolish NEET and submitted data to show how it adversely affects students from rural areas of the state. The case is pending in the Supreme Court.
Last year, the former TN Chief Minister, Edapaddi Palaniswami had told the media that among the 8,41,251 candidates who wrote class 12 examination, 3,44,485 (41 per cent) were government school students. “However, last year, only six students were able to join medical courses. I know the sufferings of government school students as I also studied in a government school in a village,” he had pointed out.
Meanwhile, CM Stalin on June 5 has announced that he will set up a high-level committee to study the impact of NEET on medical college admissions over the last few years in the state. The committee will examine how government school students and students from socially and economically marginalised backgrounds have been affected by NEET.