Chennai: The struggle against the National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (NEET) has taken an unprecedented turn in Tamil Nadu after alleged suicide by three aspirants a day before the exam. The deaths left many shocked, inviting protests from different sections of the society.
While a political blame-game between the two major Dravidian parties – AIADMK and DMK-- has begun, each accusing the other for the prevailing situation, student and youth organisations have stepped up their protest.
The Chief Minister, meanwhile, went on to blame the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) for the NEET suicides in the Assembly on Tuesday.
Meanwhile support for film actor Suriya poured in after a judge of the Madras high court wrote to the Chief Justice requesting his prosecution for stating that “the judges shifting to virtual hearings for fear of their life are advising the students to appear for NEET without fear”.
SUICIDES CREATE UPROAR
The state has been opposing entrance examinations for the undergraduate medical admissions from the time of its introduction. The demand for exception for the students of the state is also being insisted by major political parties, with the exception of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Three suicides on September 12, the day before the exam created an uproar across sections of the society. Members of Parliament from the state held a protest in front of Parliament House in Delhi demanding the scrapping of NEET on September 14. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) MP representing Madurai submitted an adjournment motion on the same day.
All the political parties have thrown their weight behind the demand for scrapping NEET. They have also raised the issue of the Central Board of Secondary Education syllabus being followed for setting up the question paper, thus refusing a level playing field for students following state syllabus.
SFI,DYFI MEMBERS DETAINED
Protests erupted across the state with various political, student and youth organisations hitting the streets. Members of the Students Federation of India (SFI) and Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) in Chennai said they were manhandled by the police and were detained while they staged a protest near the state secretariat demanding the exemption of the state from NEET. In Thanjavore, SFI members were detained when they attempted to enter the district collector’s office.
Salem district collector’s office witnessed a shadow assembly being held by SFI members today. A T Kannan, state president of SFI, said, "The state government is doing lip service against the NEET examination. We decided to hold this shadow assembly session since the state assembly even failed to condole the death of the NEET aspirants. We also passed a resolution against the National Education Policy (NEP) which would exclude the socially and economically backward."
SFI held protests in Kancheepuram, Dharmapuri, Chengapattu, Theni and other districts against the NEET examination and demanded compensation for the families of the deceased students.
LEGAL FRATERNITY SUPPORTS ACTOR
Popular Tamil film actor Suriya Sivakumar voiced his concern against the continuing suicides of students fearing the NEET examination. He released a press note extending his support to the family of the three students who ended their lives on Saturday. He referred to the virtual court hearings during the COVID-19 pandemic and the insistence of the courts to the students to appear for the exam without fear.
A sitting judge of the Madras High Court wrote to Chief Justice A P Sahi seeking action for contempt of court. The claim was countered by six former judges of the court including justices K Chandru, K N Basha and D Hariparanthaman. A letter written to the Chief Justice requested him not to take cognisance considering 'the good social work done by the actor in educating poor students'.
'We are afraid that such a construction made on the statement of Suriya will be slightly off the mark and do not require any action as requested by the learned judge', the judges wrote in the letter.
Another letter was addressed to the Chief Justice by 25 advocates led by senior advocate N G R Prasad. 'Of late every criticism of the judiciary is being contemptuous. As practicing lawyers, we feel that if expression of opinion is contempt, it would amount to stifling of the freedom of speech and expression. This would have chilling effects on basic constitutional guarantees', the letter read.
'STOP GLORIFYING NEET SUICIDES'
The Madras High Court asked the political parties and media to refrain from glorifying the suicides of the aspirants. The observation was made on the mention of an advocate who requested suo motu action against the Tamil Nadu government for its failure to prevent the suicides.
In the assembly on Tuesday, Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami accused the DMK for the continuing suicides and the introduction of NEET. The DMK accused the government of its inability to avail exemption for the students from the state. The Assembly resolution seeking exemption was rejected by the President resulting in 12 suicides since the introduction of NEET.