Published: 25th June 2020
With NEET 2020 likely to be postponed or cancelled, anti-NEET voices call for its permanent ouster
Over the years, activists, politicians, educationists alike have continued to consistently express their disapproval of the exam and criticised it of being exclusionary and discriminatory
With the Ministry of Human Resource Development and the Central Board of Secondary Education declaring that the remaining 10th and 12th standard board exams have been cancelled, the next round of tests that the public has its eyes on are the NEET and JEE exams. The campaign to get the board exams cancelled was a long drawn one and so now that the students know that they can give up preparing for those, they are now on to stressing about the entrance exams. Now, despite NEET being conducted over the last couple of years, it has continued to garner controversy. While some firmly believe that it could be cancelled, others see it’s cancellation as a sign of hope or as a first step to it possibly being cancelled forever.
Tamil Nadu has been one of the foremost states when it comes to the campaign against NEET exams. Over the years, activists, politicians, educationists alike have continued to consistently express their disapproval of the exam and criticised it of being exclusionary and discriminatory — especially to those from backward classes and rural areas. Now that the board exams have been cancelled, activists are hoping NEET could be cancelled too, “News reports say 20 crore migrant workers went back home, now assuming that they are families of four, that would mean that 80 crore people are right not in grave distress because of the pandemic. About 500-600 have already died and this is not counting those that the pandemic has taken away. It is a man-made calamity, so this is not at all a period to consider exams or online classes, let alone something like NEET,” Prince Gajendra Babu, the General Secretary of the State Platform for Common School System, Tamil Nadu.
An anti-NEET protest by TN politicians
Babu says that the exam neither ensured quality education nor qualified candidates and calls it a "marketing concept". Thus arguing that there is no need for the exam to even be conducted, “We are all for a zero academic year or a zero semester. We cannot look at it as a wasted year and we should not look at it as one. This is an experience and people are coping in their own ways, students will be too distressed to attend exams or classes, and so we should just let them be. They are psychologically strong enough and online classes are discriminatory. Colleges itself are constantly evolving, making decisions and revoking them, making new ones. Instead of all this we can have a zero year,” he suggests.
Some feel that the exam should be cancelled once and for all — though the chances of that happening are slim to none. Dr C S Rex Sargunam, President of the Tamil Nadu Health Development Association (TNHDA) also says he wishes that NEET gets cancelled forever, “Not just this year, I hope it is forever cancelled. They definitely should cancel it this year, they cannot have an exam like this in a situation like ours. They can admit the students based on the 12th standard marks, as they have been doing all these years.”
NEET exams have been highly controversial
Dr G R Ravindranath from the Doctors Association for Social Equality is also of the firm belief that the environment today is in no way conducive to hold NEET, “There has to be an exemption this year, each state should be allowed to allot on their own. Only for the All India Quota for central universities, the Centre has to develop some kind of mechanism to figure out those seats. But for the state seats, the state government should be allowed to carry on their procedure,” he said.
With regard to the reopening dates, Ravindranath says that there is no way to tell when a good time would be because different centres are predicting different dates for when the COVID-19 dates will peak, “One University said November, then ICMR also said the same, that the Chennai Mathematical Institute said September, so there is no way to know. Nobody knows when is a good time.”
But this is not the first time that a medical year would be delayed, Sargunam says, “In the past, during the emergency, and also the Indo-Pakistan war, the medical students were accepted in the October batch. Maybe the duration of the year has to be reduced but otherwise, it is okay for a year to be pushed by a little. We still don’t know when the world will be able to contain this disease.”
Could this be the end of NEET?
The cancellation of NEET though, the activists think, could be a good enough premise to revisit the arguments made against it and by going back to the way that the seats were allocated prior to NEET, that is through the state government counselling, students from marginalised sections might have more hope of securing a seat.
Babu adds that several bodies and judiciary orders have repeatedly pointed to the inequalities that exams like NEET unleashes on students, “From the SC case, where the court ruled that the state government is best equipped to decide on medical college intake, to a Parliament statutory report stating that the CMET was not properly inclusive. We know that NEET is just a mechanism to filter out students who cannot spend lakhs to get a seat or get coaching.”
Stressing on the importance of cancelling NEET, Babu said that even during this lockdown he saw that several doctors in private hospitals went on leave, “Before NEET, students from all backgrounds got a chance to study and so many students from rural areas go back to working in their hometowns mostly because they grew up with no proper medical facilities. And these are the students the NEET is denying a medical seat to. Now see, during this pandemic, the government hospital doctors are the only ones who are working.”