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NEET Takes political centre stage again in Tamil Nadu

DECCAN CHRONICLE | G Babu Jayakumar & D Sekar

Published on: August 15, 2023 | Updated on: August 15, 2023

In two days, the debate turned purely political with parties rushing in to blame each other and the Governor (in picture).   DC File Image

Chennai: The National Eligibility and Entrance Test (NEET), the medical college admission test that first rocked the State in 2017 with a girl from Ariyalur committing suicide, after fighting a losing legal battle against its implementation, and making it a talking point, has once again taken political centre stage in the run up to the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

In fact, even before the latest NEET related tragedy, the death of a son-father duo in Chennai’s Chrompet by suicide, happened on Sunday and Monday, the Pandora’s box was yanked open in the Raj Bhavan premises on Saturday when Governor R N Ravi made a public averment that given to himself he would not approve of the NEET Exemption Bill that is pending Presidential approval.

Then the actual political blame game came to the fore after the State was plunged into grief by the death of the 17 year old boy, Jagatheewaran, who failed to clear the entrance test twice, and his father Selvasekaran, killing himself the next morning, giving a new lease of life to the topic that was lying dormant for some time.

The Governor, who had organized a felicitation of students clearing NEET and getting admission in medical colleges this year, had eulogized NEET and even said the people of the State had reconciled to it despite the father of one of the achiever students running down the entrance exam openly.

The father of the girl from Salem was the one who made the Governor make the statement in public by raising the question when he would sign the Bill seeking exemption for the State from NEET. Though he was reportedly shooed down and not allowed to confront the Governor, he spoke to the media persons inside Raj Bhavan premises itself.

Flaying the concept of the entrance examination, for which some students had to spent 13 to 14 hours a days and some others had to repeat it three times, the father spoke openly against it capturing the attention of social media channels, too, thus reopening the debate over the merits and demerits of NEET.

But in two days, the debate turned purely political with parties rushing in to blame each other and the Governor. Chief Minister M K Stalin called for the boycott of the Independence Day tea party at Raj Bhavan against the Governor’s view while the AIADMK general secretary Edappadi K Palaniswami accused the DMK of coming to power by giving false promises on abolishing NEET to the voters.

PMK leaders, its founder S Ramadoss and president Anbumani Ramadoss, spoke against NEET while condoling the death of the father-son duo and also urging the student community to take failures in their stride. Anbumani Ramadoss said that NEET was killing people not in Tamil Nadu alone but also in Rajasthan’s Kota, where 19 students had died this year.

State Minister for Sports Development and Youth Welfare, Udhayanidhi Stalin, paid homage to the man who killed himself unable to bear the loss of his son, the medical college aspirant, and then blamed the Governor for it.

The DMK government, however, came under attack from Palaniswami, who wanted the government to find a legal solution to put an end to NEET, thus taking a diametrically opposite stand to that of the Governor who claimed that NEET helped economically poor students to realize their medical college dream.

All the naysayers, however, claimed that NEET only helped the urban and rich students who could afford expensive coaching centres realize their medical college dream, thus putting the rural and poor students at a disadvantage. Even the man who questioned the Governor at Raj Bhavan said that he had to blow up Rs 20 lakh to help his daughter clear NEET.

All the DMK allies, including the Congress in the State, are opposed to NEET and might even heed to the boycott call given by Stalin to keep off the tea party. The AIADMK and PMK that are part of the NDA are also against NEET, which leaves the BJP to plough a lonely furrow on supporting NEET.

So if the DMK and its allies turn NEET into an electoral plank, which is highly possible going by the indicators, it might work against the BJP, which would have to do a lot of explaining now that it has become a talking point.