Headline- The Tamil Nadu girl who spearheaded the battle against the applicability of NEET for UG Medical admissions in the state commits suicide today.
Opinion– Thus ended a precious life. A life that could have been anything huge. It has fallen prey to probably the nastiest political games in recent times in Tamil Nadu. The news came as a shocker to me, since I had presumed that the chapter was closed for this academic year at the least.
The NEET conundrum has been going on for a while, with the Honourable Supreme Court ruling that no exemption shall be provided to Tamil Nadu and that the state must conduct medical admissions based on NEET scores. This ended the confusion regarding the ever-delaying admissions to the Government Medical Colleges in the state, or that is what I thought. It was just the beginning, it seems.
Anitha, who had a board exam score of 1178/1200 in her class 12 had a lower NEET score, making her ineligible for the Merit seats in Government medical colleges in the state. She was the petitioner in the Supreme Court case above. She lost the case and with that, her dreams.
I try and think about this from an objective point of view. I shut my ears and eyes to the uproar caused by political parties in the social media, all of which, I am damn sure, is for the screen time and political mileage. I shall not be influenced by any of those, I decide.
The main aspect of today’s news was that she was a Dalit girl. Somehow, this point seems to be highlighted everywhere. I for one do not understand that if it was a Backward community or a general category student, who had exhausted all the options and committed suicide, would it have been highlighted the same way too? I doubt it. Moving on. People talk about how Dalits are oppressed in our country and how the oppression still continues etc. I agree with all of it. Let us take the case of Anitha, in Tamil Nadu.
There are about 45 seats reserved for candidates from Scheduled Caste/ Scheduled Tribes in the Tamil Nadu assembly. No other candidates are allowed to contest from those seats. That is around 19% representation in the legislative assembly of Tamil Nadu, over the years, for SC and ST. Still, it is a fact that the conditions of the people belonging to SC and ST have not improved on the ground. Apparently, there is a gap somewhere between the representatives and the people, which is being overlooked here. Have we held those people responsible for the pathetic state of affairs now? It is still the story of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.
That being said, the game of NEET was purely a political one played by the politicians in the lives of the unassuming students. Students as always, are taught to chase marks by rote learning. Most students who pass their class 12 exams would not be thorough with the concepts or the applications of a particular idea given in their textbooks. This is a fact. I studied in the same board and I felt the pinch when I came to Chennai to prepare for CA-intermediate. I had felt intimidated in a class of 200 when everybody other than me seemed to know the correct answer to a basic question in accounts when I was gawking at them with disbelief. These were not CBSE students. These were students from Kerala and Andhra Pradesh, who had studied in their respective state boards and completed class 12. That low was our standards of the higher secondary syllabus. It still is.
NEET is an exam conducted by the CBSE for admission into Government Medical colleges and Government seats in private medical colleges. The question paper for NEET is set by the CBSE, which obviously will rely on its own NCERT text books to pick questions for the exam. This gives an undue advantage to the CBSE students who use NCERT books for their higher secondary exams. Would it be that tough to ask for a separate body to conduct exams for medical admissions in the country? Anyway, we have gazillion schemes and committees decorating New Delhi, why not have one for something reasonable? Or are we ready to implement CBSE as uniform syllabus through out the country with the same books and the same quality of education as provided in say a Delhi Public School or a Kendriya Vidyalaya? How about focussing on tightening up the state education departments to comply with some set standards as the bare minimum to print text books?
I was hence thinking what might have caused our own education ministers and the relevant authorities to not initiate a syllabus revamp? Then I thought about various lobbies that bat for this ‘mark-centric’ and ‘rote learning’ ideas that would keep filling their coffers year after year. Also, the state government had earlier put an upper ceiling on the fees collected by private schools in Tamil Nadu. But I know of certain cases where the schools collect double the stipulated amount (half via Instruments and the other half strictly by cash, for which no receipts would be given). This is very common in Tamil Nadu and the state government seems oblivious to these on purpose.
Also, the quality of education that is under fire includes the values that are taught to children. Are we cornering them into pursuing one particular stream and not helping them realise that life is beyond these? Are we being lax on the emotional well being of students and fail to spot patterns in student behaviour? In a way, are we inculcating to the student that if he or she doesn’t get her first step right, there is nothing more to it? Are we raising a weaker generation, which is ignorant about the trials and tribulations of life? These are all open ended questions that we need to ask ourselves as a society.
Anitha is gone today. Her dream unfulfilled. She fell prey to the petty politics played by the Centre and the State. I am sure now multiple politicians will tread the soil of Ariyalur for photo-ops and gimmicks. Do they care about her? I am not sure. Today she fell victim to failures at multiple levels over the years. Let her demise be a lesson to all of us.
A soul that held the lamp of a promising future is gone, to never be back. May She Rest In Peace.