The suicide of Anitha, a bright Dalit woman student of Tamil Nadu, has underlined the deeply unjust and biased NEET (National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test) medical entrance test.
After scoring high marks in the state level 12th standard board exam, and the state level engineering and medical exams, she was deemed ‘undeserving’ by the NEET exam. Having lost her mother to illness, Anitha had dreamed of becoming a doctor and saving lives. Students like Anitha – from desperately poor and oppressed households in Tamil Nadu – dreamed of being able to get a chance to study medicine, based on their good performance in school board exams. But the NEET tended to favour those with a CBSE schooling.
Anitha had been one of the petitioners from Tamil Nadu in the Supreme Court against NEET. Anitha's family did not have enough money for the coaching centres that ‘train’ students to crack NEET. The petitioners had pointed out that while NEET is being introduced in the name of bringing uniformity to the medical entrance test countrywide, the question papers in various Indian languages were more difficult than the ones in English. In other words, not only was there no uniformity, the NEET discriminated against candidates writing in Indian languages. The people of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Assam, Manipur - the diverse peoples of India have an equal right to acquire education. Why impose an entrance exam that discriminates in the name of ‘uniformity’?
Remember how Ekalavya was asked to sacrifice his thumb because Dronacharya was not his guru? The education system imposed on us knows a thousand ways to demand sacrifices from the Ekalavyas of our times.
Both the Tamil Nadu Government and the Central Government have Anitha’s blood on their hands. The Tamil Nadu Government after posturing against NEET eventually settled for just one year’s exemption from NEET and accepted NEET in principle. It failed to push the Central Government to keep its promise to support the exemption of Tamil Nadu from NEET, in the Supreme Court. The Centre did a U-turn which led to a Supreme Court ruling imposing NEET.
The Vyapam scam had brought to light the dirty underbelly of medical exam scams in the country. The vicious corruption as well as deep seated bias in medical entrance exams plays havoc with the dreams of India’s younger generation, especially those from the most oppressed and deprived backgrounds.