On a day the Opposition AIADMK blamed the DMK government for student suicides due to the unfulfilled promise of cancelling the National Entrance-cum-Eligibility Test, the Tamil Nadu Assembly passed a Bill to restore the medical admissions mechanism that existed in the state before the introduction of NEET.
The Bill, which allows for admissions to undergraduate courses in medicine, dentistry, Indian medicine and homoeopathy on the basis of class 12 marks, also provides for 7.5 per cent horizontal reservation for the students of government schools in medical admission. The Bill said the NEET “festers inequality, as it favours the rich and more privileged class of society who are able to afford special coaching, apart from pursuing class 12”.
While the opposition AIADMK supported the move, the BJP staged a walkout to protest against the government’s decision. BJP’s Nainar Nagenthiran insisted NEET had its benefits like increased pass percentage.
Introducing the Bill, Chief Minister M K Stalin said the state government is moving this legislation as it has the competency, saying that admissions to “medical education courses are traceable to entry 25 of List III, Schedule VII of the Constitution”.
The Bill was crafted on the basis of recommendations from a state appointed high-level committee by Justice A K Rajan to look at various aspects and impact of NEET, including “whether the NEET is an equitable method for selection of students and also to consider the effect of mushrooming NEET coaching centres on the educational system in the state”.
“The committee recommended that the state government shall pass an Act, like Tamil Nadu Admission in Professional Educational Institutions Act, 2006 (Tamil Nadu Act 3 of 2007),” Stalin said in the Assembly. “Medical admissions based on the qualifying examination will in no way lower the standard of education, since the higher secondary syllabus is of sufficient standard,” he said.
Stalin also asserted that it was wrong to say that NEET improved the standard of medical examination and pointed out that Tamil Nadu had the highest number of medical and dental institutions even before 2017 with remarkable standards in academics.
The government’s move to enact the law was projected as one to ensure social justice, uphold equality and equal opportunity, protect all vulnerable student communities, and ensure a robust public healthcare in the state that caters to the rural areas as well.
The committee findings pointed out that NEET had undermined diverse societal representation in MBBS and higher medical education, favouring affluent groups while thwarting the dreams of underprivileged sections.
The report said NEET is “not an equitable method of admission” and that the exam “has shattered the hopes and dreams of Tamil Nadu students”, “particularly, students from the socially and economically backward classes.”
The committee said students of government schools, those with a family income of less than Rs 2.5 lakh per annum, and those from Most Backward Classes, SCs and STs were affected due to the NEET system.
After considering the recommendations of the committee, another committee headed by Chief Secretary V Irai Anbu was formed in July, which also recommended nullifying NEET.