A 19-year-old medical aspirant died by suicide in Tamil Nadu's Salem district ahead of the Medical Entrance Exam NEET today.
After much delay due to the second wave of COVID-19, and amid campaigns for a further postponement, the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET 2021) for admission to undergraduate medical courses in India will be conducted today in 202 test cities.
The medical aspirant, identified as Dhanush, was the son of farm labourer and was found dead hours before the NEET exam was to take place. He had failed to clear the last two attempts at NEET.
Soon after his death, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin appealed to students to not lose hope and assured that a bill against NEET will be brought out tomorrow.
He said the youngster's death reinforces the need to bring back education to the state's list.
"The Union government's indifference and adamant attitude over NEET continues to be the reason for suicide by promising students," Mr Stalin said.
Several politicians and students have protested against the go-ahead given to NEET exam this year, given the ongoing pandemic and pleas by many students to reschedule it as the NEET date clashed with other exams, including those for compartment exams for CBSE students.
However, the centre had said it does not have any plans to suspend NEET and other common entrance examinations.
"We will pass a bill against NEET and I am confident we would win the support of all chief ministers," Mr Stalin added.
"I appeal to students to not take any drastic decisions," the chief minister said.
The National Testing Agency (NTA), which conducts the exam, had recently received approval from the Supreme Court of India to conduct it as per schedule. The court rejected a plea filed by some students saying NEET was clashing with other exams.
Tamil Nadu had abolished NEET exams for nearly a decade, saying that it favours affluent as even brilliant poor students and those in rural areas are unable to afford private coaching. Over the last few years, 15 medical aspirants have died by suicide in the state.
NEET was introduced during the UPA regime when Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) was part of it. Then Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Karunanidhi had managed to get presidential approval for exemption from NEET for the state. However, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) government could not get a similar exemption from its BJP ally when it came to power, even though the state assembly had passed a Bill against NEET.
The ruling DMK recently constituted a commission under retired justice AK Rajan to study the impact of NEET in medical admissions. Armed with the commission's report, the state government is hopeful of getting an exemption once again. This was also a key poll promise made by the party.