Controversy over NEET exam centres in Tamil Nadu another blow for the CBSE

Last Updated: Sun, May 06, 2018 12:08 hrs
A busy week for the Supreme Court of India

The Supreme Court refused to change its order at the eleventh hour on allocation of centres for Tamil Nadu students. The case involves the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET). The exam conducted in the country, this time had allocated exam centres in other states for students from Tamil Nadu. This meant, more than thousand students will have to travel from Tamil Nadu to Rajasthan, Sikkim and Kerala to appear for the exam.

NEET is conducted by the CBSE; it’s the national entrance exam for admission into MBBS and BDS colleges across the country. Due to the allocation of exam centres in other states, many students who may not be able to afford to travel to other states had no choice to. One example, a dalit woman who had to mortgage her jewels in an effort to pay or her travel and accommodation.

The CBSE cited the lack of time in allocating centres locally stating in part, “There was no time to arrange for more centres in Tamil Nadu. However, in all other states, candidates have been accommodated as per their choices”. Prominent people from the state expressed their outrage over this decision. Kamal Haasan took to twitter to urge the government and administration to make arrangements for students and questioned the need for students to travel to other states.

There were offers to help students who could not afford the travel and lodging expenses. The CBSE also states that this is common practice that students from one state have to travel to other states as there are a limited number of centres available in the particular home state. This exam itself has courted controversy for other reasons, particularly in Tamil Nadu. A 17 year old girl who fought against NEET in the Supreme Court, committed suicide in 2017 sparking protests and anger in the state.

Former Chief Minister Jayalalitha fought the centre on this. She was against an all-India medical entrance examination; since she became chief minister once again in 2011, she had written to the centre on multiple occasions stating that Tamil Nadu was against NEET. Her first notice to the centre was to then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2013 arguing that NEET would go against Tamil Nadu’s socio-economic objectives.

Her last letter came in 2016 to Modi reiterating that the state took steps to ensure a level playing field for rural students and imposing NEET on the state would undo those steps; this meant students from rural areas would not be able to compete with more better educated and prepared urban students who could afford tutors and access to more and better resources with regards to their education.

This current controversy surrounding NEET has drawn the anger of political parties across the state. DMK working resident MK Stalin criticized the centre for not ensuring that students could take the exam within the state. He also expressed concern on NEET being mandatory for admissions into Ayush colleges for studying ayurveda and siddha.

On Friday, Tamil Nadu chief minister K Palaniswami announced that students who need to travel to other states for the NEET exam will be given train fare in addition to monetary assistance of Rs 1,000 per student. As reported by Dinamalar, special buses will be arranged for students travelling to Kerala as ordered by the Tirunelveli Collector Sandeep Nanduri.

In a report by Vikatan, Dr. G.R.Revendranath, general secretary of the Association for Social Equality, criticized the CBSE and the centre stating that students from backward and financially poor communities will not be able to bear the expenses, stating in part, “students will be affected psychologically when they sit for the exam”, as they have to worry about arranging the money for travel and accommodation.

A controversial entrance exam process to begin with, the CBSE has not handled itself well with regards to the current issue, especially with regards to Tamil Nadu’s history with NEET. Considerations for students should be paramount when any form of exam is taking place. This comes in the wake of the leaks of exam papers for class X and XII just over a month back.

It’s clear that the administrative body did not plan for such a situation, but it would have been prudent to consult with the state government in coordinating and helping to ensure that students’ needs are taken care of and they needn’t have to worry about how some of them who do not have the financial resources will travel across the country.

More columns by Varun Sukumar

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