Whenever the marginalized have raised their voices against issues of equal opportunities in education the “Merit” argument has always pushed down the throats of those, who advocated reservations or affirmative action. The “Merit” that the status quo vouch for, died along with S Anitha, a student who scored 98 %( 1,176 marks out of 1,200) in her plus two exams. Anitha, a Dalit, was the daughter of daily wage manual worker and had hoped to become an MBBS doctor. She was also one of the petitioners who had approached the courts to scrap National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) that was deemed to be pro-urban, pro-coaching and biased towards the students from Central Board.
Anitha spoke to media about her dreams to become a doctor
She took her life as she was unable to realize her dreams to become a doctor. Had the Tamil Nadu’s previous admission policy been allowed to continue, she would have got an admission in a medical college.
Dr G R Ravindranath, Doctors Association for Social Equality, spoke to Newsclick and said, “With the marks Anitha scored, she would have gotten through the best medical college in the state, i.e. Madras Medical College.” The Tamil Nadu government was planning an ordinance to seek an exemption for the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) for two years so that the students and teachers adapt to the changes in syllabus and test pattern. “Both the Central and State governments are responsible for her death. Till the last moment, the central government gave hopes to the people of Tamil Nadu by saying they will exempt Tamil Nadu from NEET. At the last moment they cheated the people of Tamil Nadu,” said the doctor.
Since 2006, the students from the state were given admission based on the marks they scored in their plus two exams. It is similar to the admissions that take place in prestigious Delhi University’s Undergraduate programmes. Based on the marks a merit list was prepared by the Tamil Nadu Directorate of Medical Education and students were offered admissions. With this system of admissions rural and poor student who could not afford coaching centres, could also aspire and become doctors or engineers.
With the Supreme Court and the Central Government not looking into the aspects of the students from rural and marginalised backgrounds gave its verdict of having a single entrance for the whole country. The fallout of such a singular system resulted in a student, who scored 196.75 out of 200 cut off marks in the state board for the medical stream, losing an opportunity to secure a medical seat, which ultimately led to her death.
Her father broke down before the media. “She managed to study in difficult circumstances. She was concerned about NEET. What wrong had she done, who will answer?” he asked.
The people of Tamil Nadu took to the streets after hearing the news of the suicide of S Anitha