Seeking to ensure Social Justice and uphold equality and equal opportunity, the Tamil Nadu Assembly on September 13 ‘unanimously’ passed a Bill against the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) for undergraduate medical admissions and to permanently exempt the national level single entrance exam for the medical aspirants in the State.
Chief Minister M.K Stalin moved the “The Tamil Nadu Admission to Undergraduate Medical Degree Courses Bill, 2021,” which seeks to provide admission to these courses on the basis of marks obtained in the qualifying examination (Plus Two marks in the state) through normlaisation methods as done prior to the introduction of NEET in 2017 in the state.
“I am tabling the Bill to provide admission to undergraduate medical degree courses not through NEET but on the basis of the marks obtained in the qualifying examination through normalized methods,” Chief Minister M.K Stalin said, moving the Bill and requested the members to pass it unanimously.
Asserting that the DMK government has begun the legal battle against NEET soon after coming to power, the Chief Minister said “NEET festers inequality as it favours the rich and the more privileged class of society, who are able to afford special coaching apart from pursuing Class XII. It (NEET) virtually barricades the underprivileged social groups from medical and dental education.”
The NEET was against the equality clause enshrined in the constitution, Mr Stalin said and contended that admission to medical courses was traceable to entry 25 of List III, Schedule VII of the Constitution and the State was fully competent to regulate the medical courses for underprivileged social groups.
Dismissing as ‘spurious’, the suggestion that NEET improved the standard of medical education, Mr Stalin said the standard of medical education was maintained during the UG course by following the syllabus and curriculum prescribed by the National Medical Commission and through exams conducted by the university before awarding the degrees. Students who are not able to pass the university exams are not awarded degrees. “Therefore, it is not during the admission stage that the standard of medical education is maintained,” Mr Stalin argued.
He said the aim of the Bill was to ensure social justice, uphold equality and equal opportunity, protect all vulnerable student communities from discrimination and bring them into the mainstream of medical and dental education. The Bill also aimed to ensure robust public health care across the state, particularly in the rural areas. After completing the MBBS course, students from the affluent class do not serve in rural areas and prefer to pursue postgraduate courses abroad, Mr Stalin said. This has resulted in the decline in the number of serving doctors in the state, he added.
The Chief Minister said the Government’s decision to dispense with the requirement for candidates to qualify in the NEET for admission to medical courses followed a report from the high level committee headed by retired High Court Judge A.K Rajan. The Committee in its report, said NEET clearly undermined the diverse societal representation in MBBS and higher medical studies. The report further said NEET favoured mainly the affluent segment of the society while thwarting the dream of the underprivileged social groups to pursue medical education, Mr Stalin pointed out. The A.K Rajan committee after perusing the views of 86,342 people said “If NEET continued for few more years, the healthcare system of Tamil Nadu would be very badly affected and there may not be enough doctors to be posted at Primary Health Centres or Government Hospitals and the rural and urban poor may not be able to join the medical courses,” Mr Stalin said. The panel suggested that the government take immediate steps to eliminate NEET from being used in admission to medical programmes at all levels, he further said.
Mr. Stalin said the A.K Rajan committee said NEET was not a fair or equitable method of admission, since it favoured the rich and elite sections of the society. The most affected groups were the students of Tamil Medium, students having a rural background, those from government schools, those whose parental annual income was less than Rs 2.5 lakhs and socially disadvantaged groups like the Most Backward Classes, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Based on the report, the government decided that admission to undergraduate courses in medicine, dentistry, Indian medicine and Homeopathy in the state shall be made only based on the marks obtained in the qualifying examinations (Plus Two), he said.
The DMK had been opposing NEET right from the beginning and the Bill against NEET was to fulfill the party’s election promise, he said. In fact, the DMK had begun the legal battle against NEET soon after coming to power and had constituted the A.K Rajan Committee on June 10, 2021 to study the adverse impact of NEET. The Committee submitted its report to the government on July 14, 2021.
Right from Anitha of Ariyalur district, several medical aspirants have lost their lives because of NEET, Mr. Stalin said. Yesterday (September 11) also Danush, an aspirant from Salem ended his life and the Bill aimed at seeking permanent exemption from the ‘Killer NEET’.
The DMK government and other political parties in the state, through a series of legal battles, had made a historic achievement, securing 27 per cent reservation for the backward classes in the All India Quota scheme for UG and PG medical and dental courses. Similarly, in the NEET issue also, all legislature parties should extend their fullest cooperation to ensure social justice, Mr. Stalin said.
The house passed the Bill unanimously after the BJP members staged a walkout defending NEET. The Principal Opposition AIADMK and other parties, including the Congress, Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) and Left parties supported the Bill, adopted by voice vote. A day after, the government sent the Bill to the Governor to be forwarded to the President for his assent.
During the debate, the Chief Minister blamed the Leader of the Opposition Edappadi K Palaniswami for allowing NEET in the state when admissions to medical courses were based on ‘Plus Two’ marks during the tenures of Kalaignar (former Chief Minister M Karunanidhi) and Jayalalithaa. “The Assembly had passed a Bill, seeking exemption from NEET when you were the Chief Minister. And when the President rejected the Bill, the Assembly was kept in the dark and that was also when you were the Chief Minister,” Mr. Stalin said, turning the table on Mr. Palaniswami amid thumping desks. When medical aspirants committed suicides, the Palaniswami regime maintained an eerie silence and continued in power, Mr. Stalin charged.