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Shubhiksha G V, Pune 

Tamil Nadu lost two more lives to the National Eligibility and Entrance Test (NEET), an all-India pre-medical entrance exam, over the weekend. Jagadish, a 19-year-old NEET aspirant, committed suicide on August 12 in Chennai after failing the entrance exam twice. His father, a single parent, was found dead two days later.

Reacting to this, Tamil Nadu CM M K Stalin issued a statement saying if it were up to him, he would immediately scrap the test. “Let Jagadish and his father’s deaths be the last deaths at NEET’s sacrificial fire”, he said. Various student groups erupted into protests asking for justice on August 14. 

A student and a friend of Jagadish, Faizudeen, addressed the press, “Jagadish scored better than me in both attempts. My father was financially able, so I got a seat. He got offers abroad, but declined them to study in Tamil Nadu and be with his dad”, he said. Faizudeen went on to say the Central Government should assess if NEET is necessary. 

The Tamil Nadu government has been pushing the bill to exempt the state from NEET tests since 2021. The anti-NEET bill was formally passed in the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly in September 2021 but was rejected by the Governor. The CM has sent the bill for President Murmu’s consideration after receiving constant flak from TN Governor R. N. Ravi.

While addressing the students on August 12, the Governor said he will never clear the anti-NEET bill and that the exam has reduced the corruption in medical college admission, creating opportunities for students with poor backgrounds. 

The Deccan Herald reports that the Governor said, “I will be the last man to give it clearance. I do not want my children to feel intellectually disabled. I want our children to compete to be the best.”

Tamil Nadu colleges admitted students to medical institutions through counseling methods, until NEET became mandatory in 2017, replacing the Common Entrance Test (CET) and All India Pre-Medical Test (AIPMT). Anti-NEET is the only stance both Dravidian parties in TN agree on.

There have been vigorous protests since the implementation of NEET, with causes ranging from inaccessibility to quality coaching and incompetent translation or Tamil translation of the test. Students have increasingly found the test to be distressing, despite the many attempts to clear it. This has robbed them of the chance to get placed in a 

Government Medical College.

The state has witnessed 16 deaths due to NEET exams since 2017. The suicide of 17-year-old Anitha resulted in protests against NEET. Hailing from a marginalised community, she had scored 1176 out of 1200 marks in standard 12, which could have fetched her seats at the best Government Medical Colleges in the state. She impleads herself against Nalini Chidambaram’s argument at the Supreme Court for the motion of compulsory NEET exams. Anitha lost the case and committed suicide a week later. She was honoured posthumously by TN Sports. The Youth Development Minister, Udhayanidhi Stalin, named the auditorium at Ariyalur district’s Govt. Medical College after her in 2023. Her death resonated with the state’s aspirants who have actively condemned the test.