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After ‘long battle’ for community certificate, TN tribal girl scores well above NEET cut-off for STs

The 20-year-old says coaching and syllabus were not her main concerns. She was determined to become a doctor despite living in a hamlet that had largely been cut off until the pandemic broke out

Written by Nithya Pandian | Chennai |
Updated: November 8, 2021 12:48:49 pm
Kayalvizhi Selvaraj, minister for Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare, visited Nanjappanur and congratulated Sangavi. (Photo Credits: Kayalvizhi Selvaraj)

For generations, those living in Nanjappanur, a tribal hamlet near Rottigoundanur in Tamil Nadu’s Coimbatore district, worked as farmhands. All that is going to change soon as Sangavi Muniyappan, a 20-year-old Malasar tribal student, cracked NEET in her second attempt by scoring 202 marks, well above the cut-off score of 108-137 for ST candidates.

“Coaching and syllabus were not my concerns. I appeared for NEET in 2018 after completing HSC in Pichanur Government Higher Secondary School. But I lost the chance to become a doctor by just 6 marks. Later, I joined Narayana Guru Polytechnic college for a diploma. Without a community certificate, I wasn’t eligible to get all the facilities the state assured tribal students under the ST reservation. It was hard for me to leave the college within a week. I had applied for a community certificate right after I finished my SSLC,” Sangavi told The Indian Express about her “long battle” for the certificate.

She is the first girl to clear the HSC exam in her hamlet which is situated in Madukkarai taluk’s Thirumalaiyampalayam panchayat. Her application for a community certificate, however, was rejected five times by the village administration on various grounds until she finally got it last year.

Coimbatore Collector visits Sangavi.

“In our hamlet, nobody completed higher studies, so none have community certificate. In order to get the community certificate, either my parents or relatives should have one. The government provided land without naming our community. So most of our community people don’t have any official document proving that they belong to the Malasar community and have lived here for generations. I applied for a community certificate five times, but the village administration rejected it all. It became the bigger issue after several local channels and newspapers highlighted it,” she says.

Sangavi’s father Muniyappan passed away last year after he suffered a cardiac arrest while working on a farm. She lives with her mother Vasanthamani in a thatched house. Her determination to keep studying was so strong that she’d often wrap all her study materials in a plastic cover to protect them from rain.

Until two years ago, the 49 families residing in the hamlet had no electricity, roads or street light. Sangavi herself relied on a lantern for studies. At present, four students from Nanjappanur study in Class X and 20 others are in middle school. Sangavi expects more families to come forward and enrol their kids in school.

The community was cut-off in more ways. “All the posts and mails would end up at Rottigoundanur post office. Our people used to go there and collect it. Nobody considered this place as a village. We didn’t even have a name for our village, it was just Muniappan Kovil street. During the first Covid wave, volunteers arrived in our village to provide relief materials and came to know of our existence. Now we are getting roads and streetlights,” she points out.

It was during this visit that Siva, one of the volunteers, met Sangavi. Learning of her dream to become a doctor, he and his friends decided to support her.

“When we met her at first, she told us that she aspired to study medicine. With the help of samaritans and organisations, we managed to enrol her at a private coaching centre, but she attended the classes for just four months. Access to a proper network and online classes is not possible in Nanjappanur. Even now, people have to walk a certain distance to get network. She prepared for the entrance exam with available notes and secured 202 marks in her second attempt,” says Siva, who is now her guardian.

Minister for Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare, Kayalvizhi Selvaraj, visited Nanjappanur on November 5 to congratulate Sangavi and gifted her a laptop. Residents of the settlement also sought better housing units and gas connections in the area and Selvaraj assured them of requisite assistance.

Sangavi’s teachers now hope the bright girl would be able to secure a medical seat under the 7.5% special reservation for government school students in the state.

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