Published: 23rd November 2020
Delayed news about financial support for govt school medical aspirants crushes TN student's dreams
Seventeen-year-old Thanga Petchi scored 155 in her maiden NEET attempt. She secured 438th rank in the merit list released under the 7.5 per cent horizontal reservation
Clad in her uniform, S Thanga Petchi stood out in the crowd of 14 government school students who were felicitated for cracking the NEET by Revenue Minister RB Udhayakumar at the Madurai Collectorate on Sunday. Her’s was an odd presence because of her uncertain future. Among the 14 students, she is the only one who is on the waiting list despite attending the medical counselling on November 19.
For her, the State government’s announcement that it would bear the educational expenses of government school students admitted in private medical colleges came two days late. She had already turned down the seat in a private medical college. A student of the Government Kallar Higher Secondary School and belonging to a denotified community, which is categorised as Most Backward Class (MBC), 17-year-old Thanga Petchi scored 155 in her maiden NEET attempt. She secured 438th rank in the merit list released under the 7.5 per cent horizontal reservation.
“Looking at my NEET score when the results came, I was convinced that I would not be able to secure a medical seat this year. It was then that the 7.5 per cent reservation came as a blessing. Full of optimism, we set out to Chennai to attend the medical counselling,” she told. But her plight was not yet over. Words failed her as the teary-eyed girl tried to explain what happened next. Cutting in, her maternal uncle V Alagarsamy who accompanied her to the counselling said that seats were available only in 10 private colleges during their turn. “Requiring to pay Rs 25,000 as deposit to block a seat, it was certain that the family could never afford the fees for the 5.5-year-long course,” said Alagarsamy.
“Requiring to pay Rs 25,000 as deposit to block a seat, it was certain that the family could never afford the fees collected by private medical colleges for the 5.5-year-long course. We felt that instead of giving away Rs 25,000 for blocking the seat, it could be used to admit her in a private coaching center for a second NEET attempt,” said Alagarsamy. S Sivaramapandian, who is Thanga Petchi’s school headmaster, with tears rolling down his cheeks, said: “Maybe I should have guided them to take the risk. When people were hesitant to sponsor the girl and banks seeking collateral to provide a loan, the family had no option but turn down the offer in a private medical college."
Even as the medical counselling was underway, Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami on Saturday announced that the State government would bear the tuition and hostel fees of government school students admitted through the horizontal reservation in private medical and dental colleges. Unfortunately, Thanga Pechi could not be ecstatic because the announcement came two days late for her, denting her dream. Had the announcement was made two days prior, the fruits of it could have been enjoyed by the family, said Alagarsamy. Commenting on the issue, the Principal Secretary to the Department of Health and Family Welfare, Dr J Radhakrishnan said there are about 10-15 students across the State facing a similar plight.
“Despite repeated reassurance of government scholarship during the first two days of counselling, these students held back thinking it to be a risk. They have been put on waiting list and would be allotted seats during the second round, subject to availability,” he added. A resident of Paanaamoopanpatti village in Usilampatti taluk, Thange Petchi is the eldest of four sisters. If she navigates the medical cours, Thanga Petchi will become the first generation graduate in the family. Her parents are agricultural workers who toil daily to take home a meagre Rs 9,000-Rs 12,000 a month. If no help is forthcoming, the girls could end up selling jasmine flowers from their small garden-field to Nilakottai wholesale flower market. Clearing NEET was not an easy task for her.
“As the network connectivity in our village is poor, I could not attend the free online NEET coaching given by the government. Banking entirely on high school syllabus, I prepared for the entrance exam all by myself, only studying textbooks of classes XI and XII,” she told TNIE. During the lockdown, she had mere four or five hours at night for daily preparation, as she maintained the flower field, cooked for her sisters and took care of the household, while her parents were away at work. Not a single case Principal Secretary (Health Department) Dr J Radhakrishnan said that there are about 10-15 students across the State facing a similar plight