The day after a 19-year-old girl committed suicide on failing to get admission into medical school based on her score in the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), protests erupted on the streets of Chennai.
According to reports, Mount Road in the city came to a halt for some time on Saturday after student groups and political organisations took to the streets to speak out against the imposition of NEET on Tamil Nadu.
Anitha, who belonged to Ariyalur, one of the most backwards districts in the state, came from a poor Dalit family. A gifted student, she had scored a staggering 1,176 marks out of 1,200 in her school-leaving exams but failed to notch a comparable performance in NEET.
Unfamiliar with the CBSE syllabus, on which NEET is based, Anitha did not manage to secure the cut-off marks that would make her eligible for entry into medical school, which was a long-cherished dream for her.
Although she took her fight to the Supreme Court, the court refused to make an exception for Tamil Nadu, arguing that such a precedence would open the floodgates for every other state to demand such immunity. If such were the case, then the entire point of a special eligibility test will be defeated.
NEET was introduced amid concerns over capitation fees and corrupt admission procedures into medical colleges, but has its share of detractors from the start. Former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu J Jayalalithaa had written to former Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh asking for the examination to be scrapped.
"Anitha managed to study in difficult circumstances. She was concerned about NEET. What wrong had she done, who will answer?" said her father T Shanmugham, a daily-wage labourer, at the Gandhi Market in Trichy.
Movie stars Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan have expressed their condolence, while former Union Minister and PMK leader Anbumani Ramadoss blamed the Central and the state governments for the tragedy. IANS reported him saying on Friday that the state government, headed by Chief Minister K Palaniswami, and the Centre should accept responsibility for Anitha's death as they had initially assured that Tamil Nadu will get a one year exemption from NEET.
In many districts protesters echoed a similar sentiment. They chanted "ekka kedu, vekka kedu" (shame, shame)" as they burnt effigies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
As the Hindustan Times pointed out, the anger over Anitha's death should be also seen in the context of the of the growing anger in Tamil Nadu over what many see as the Centre's anti-Tamil moves, including alleged attempts to impose Hindi and Sanskrit.
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