Published: 14th September 2020
If we don’t do something now, suicides may continue: Actor Suriya in scathing statement against NEET
Suriya called NEET, a ‘ManuNEEThi’ and slammed the government for not being more concerned about the students needs
The day after three NEET aspirants committed suicide within 24 hours, Tamil Actor Suriya Sivakumar issued a scathing statement criticising the exam, calling it a ‘ManuNeethi’ test. One of the lines from his statement about judges hearing cases via video conferencing but asking students to attempt exams in the midst of a pandemic has also invited the wrath of some members of the judiciary. A Madras High Court judge has urged the Chief Justice to initiate contempt of court proceedings against the actor for his statement.
Some have said that there could have been a miscommunication or a ‘lost in translation’ situation but what has Suriya exactly said in his letter? The Singham star accused the government of creating a system that further deepens the divide between the privileged and underprivileged children. “Instead of wishing children ‘all the best’ before they go for an exam, we are asking them to be courageous, to not be scared. We want children to prove their worth, eligibility even during a pandemic. It seems like those framing the policies are ignorant of the plight of the poor and the effect that these exams will have on these families,” he stated.
“Due to the pandemic, judges are hearing cases through video conferences, but it is expected that students should write their exams in the same situation,” he wrote. A Facebook post went viral two days ago by a user who said that one of the students who died by suicide had made many grammatical errors in her suicide note. Possibly in reference to this, Suriya wrote in his statement that instead of sympathising with the families, we are having debates about grammatical errors in their suicide notes, “Suicides have become a daily discussion but Chanakyas are talking about grammatical errors in the suicide notes. This ‘ManuNeethi’ is not just depriving students of opportunities but also their lives.”
He also addressed those who blame the parents for suicides by saying that the exam itself is an injustice, “Parents and teachers prepare the child as much as they can because this exam exists and they have no choice. So how can we curse the parents? Teachers and students must become more aware and raise their voices. Our children’s entire capability and worth is being determined by these tests. And these tests are not worth it, they are just unjustified. Students must be taught how to cope with success and failure and they should know that when the exam itself shouldn’t be conducted in the first place, they shouldn't feel bad,” he said.
“These children should know that they have loving families, friends and previous relationships. This exam is just a small, barely significant aspect of their lives,” he stated. The actor also recalled the tale of Dronacharya and Ekalavya, “In the Mahabharata, Ekalavya was asked to cut off his thumb because he excelled at what he did. Now students who are in the 6th standard are being asked to prove their capabilities and if they do prove their capability, then again after 12th, they are being asked to prove their eligibility by passing NEET."
He said that the Saturday suicides have happened before and will happen tomorrow and in the future as well if we don’t take cognisance of it, “We have to keep our eyes open. Or else, this will keep continuing. Otherwise, the common man will continue to be deprived of opportunities.” He signed off with ‘With grief, Suriya’.
Suriya founded Agaram, a foundation that helps provide education to the poor. On Monday, the foundation announced an Agaram COVID-19 Education Fund, a sum of 3.5 crore for the public, COVID warriors such as doctors, nurses, health and sanitary workers, police, press, media and distributors, mediators, PROs, theatre representatives, theatre employees and Suriya’s fans. “It is said that even if one person gets educated, their entire families progress. But millions drop out of schools but we can change that if we want to,” Suriya said. The foundation had received a total of 3030 applications.