A 19-year-old student, who was preparing for the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) for the third time, died by suicide in the Salem district of Tamil Nadu on Monday, 27 March.
The 2023 edition of NEET is slated for the month of May.
According to the police, Chandru — who was from the Kallakurichi district of the state — was preparing for NEET at a coaching centre that was functioning out of a private school in Ammapalayam near Aathur in Salem.
Meanwhile, the DMK, which is in power in the state and has been vocal about the plight of students in general and NEET aspirants in particular, appeared to be silent this time.
South First contacted the frontline leaders of the DMK, as well as a couple of ministers, on Monday. They said that they would respond later.
However, till the filing of this report, there was no reaction from any of the DMK leaders.
The incident and the inquiry
On Monday afternoon, Chandru was found unresponsive in a room by a few other students.
The information was passed to the hostel warden and, subsequently, to the police. The cops rushed to the spot and recovered the body.
After hearing of the incident, locals gathered before the school. As tension prevailed in and around the campus, a huge posse of police personnel was deployed.
The student’s body was taken to the Salem Government Hospital for autopsy.
Meanwhile, Salem District Collector S Karmegam and Superintendent of Police Sivakumar arrived at the spot and conducted an inquiry.
A police officer told South First that upon preliminary inquiry, they learnt that the deceased had been upset for a few days.
“He had appeared for NEET twice before and couldn’t get a high enough score. This was his third attempt and he was getting coached to clear the medical entrance exam,” the students said.
The police recovered footage from a CCTV camera installed in the coaching centre where the boy was seen going into the room and shutting the door behind him.
“The body will be handed over to the parents after the post-mortem examination and the reason for death will be ascertained after a full-fledged investigation. An FIR has been filed under Section 174 of the Code of Criminal Procedure,” the police officer said.
NEET-related deaths continue
NEET has been a bone of contention in Tamil Nadu since its inception. The first suicide related to NEET struck the state hard.
Anitha, a Dalit girl and government school student from Ariyalur, died by suicide on 1 September, 2017, days after the exam became mandatory in the state following a Supreme Court ruling.
She secured 1,176 marks out of 1,200 in the Class 12 Board exam, which would have easily won her a medical seat had the Class 12 marks been considered that year.
But in NEET 2017, Anitha scored 86 out of 720 marks, while the minimum eligibility cutoff for making it into the merit list was 107-130 for students in the reserved category.
Since 2017, over 20 medical aspirants have died by suicide in the state due to either the pressure of the exam or the fear of not getting “high enough” marks.
On 8 September last year, a girl student from Chennai, who attempted NEET twice, ended her life.
In August 2022, a 21-year-old from Tamil Nadu’s Surandai in the Tenkasi district ended her life fearing she had not performed well in the 2022 edition of the exam.
Political fight over NEET
Tamil Nadu is one state that is vehemently opposing the nationwide medical entrance exam.
All political parties in the state, excluding the BJP, are in favour of scrapping NEET and reverting to the previous admission process, where only marks obtained in Class 12 Board exams were considered for medical college admissions.
After the DMK came to power in 2021, it formed a committee headed by retired Justice AK Rajan.
An anti-NEET Bill was passed in the Tamil Nadu Assembly and sent to Governor RN Ravi following the recommendation by secretaries of the government.
While the Governor returned the Bill, the government readopted the Bill against NEET unanimously in the Assembly and sent it to Governor, who, in turn, sent it to the President for approval, where it is still under consideration.
Meanwhile, the Tamil Nadu government moved the Supreme Court, challenging the validity of the test and the case is pending before the apex court.
During the previous AIADMK regime, a 7.5 percent reservation was allotted for government school students in medical college admissions through NEET.
The test was imposed on all states by the Union government in 2014 and was opposed by the then-AIADMK leader and late chief minister J Jayalalithaa in 2016, and the state was given an exemption from the exam for a year.
(Assistance for overcoming suicidal thoughts is available on the State’s health helpline 104 and Sneha’s suicide prevention helpline 044- 24640050).