Lakshana Swetha, who died by suicide at her house on Thursday, 8 September, a few hours after checking her NEET UG 2022 results, was a reserved person with few close friends.
“She was a mature person… someone who would advice us,” said Jayashree, her friend and classmate from school, adding that she did not “seem like someone who would commit suicide”.
“You tell me… did she die, or did the exam kill her,” she asked while speaking to South First at Swetha’s house in Indira Nagar in Thirumullaivoyal near Chennai on Thursday evening.
Relatives, friends of the family, and even a few local workers of political parties had gathered to mourn Swetha’s death and comfort her mother, Amuda, 39, a government school teacher near Avadi, who teaches Tamil.
Last year, around a dozen students had died by suicide for reasons linked to NEET and its results.
In the most recent case, on 2 September, a 21-year-old student in Tenkasi district also allegedly died by suicide due to the fear of the NEET 2022 results.
An only child
Amuda is a single mother who was estranged from her husband several years back. Swetha was her only child.
But Swetha remained in touch with her her father, and had even called him before the NEET results was announced, according to a relative, Santhosh.
“Even though her father left her mother and family, Swetha dialled her father before the results. I’m unsure what she spoke with him about, as none of us is in touch with him,” Santhosh told South First.
According to the Swetha’s friends and relatives, she had scored average marks in her Class 12 exams in 2019. She studied at a private school near Ambattur in Chennai.
However, Amuda, who was keen to see her daughter as a doctor, took loans and got her admission at a medical college in Philippines.
Keen on doing medicine in India
Though she got admission in the Philippines college — the classes were online because of the Covid-19-related restrictions on international travel — Swetha wanted to study in India and be with her mother, and was keen on cracking the NEET exam.
Magesh, one of Amuda’s students, told South First: “Swetha was a very calm and a decent girl, and had always dreamed about studying medicine.”
Though she well understood “her family situation” and focused on her studies, she couldn’t crack the NEET exam, he added.
Other friends and family members said the NEET syllabus proved very tough for her.
“Swetha had no significant problems other than NEET. It hurts to see this happening to one of our friends. Is it an age to die? There is so much more to life,” Gayathri, another classmate of Swetha’s told South First as she walked out of the room where the girl’s body was kept in closed glass coffin.
Swetha, according to her friends, didn’t attend their phone calls in the last two months. “She didn’t talk to us in the last two months. Though she is reserved, she used to talk to us as we were her comfort zone in school,” said a friend.
Shattered and surrounded by a group of women, Amuda refused to let go of her child. She sat near the coffin, quietly moaning, “My child, my child.”
“Ma’am was always very proud of her child for studying medicine, but never boasted about it. She is very kind and she treats everyone equally. It is hard to see her go through this,” Anand, another student of Amuda’s, told South First.
NEET deaths in Tamil Nadu
Around a dozen students died by suicide after the 2021 NEET results were declared.
The Tamil Nadu Assembly brought a bill against the NEET-based medical admission exam, and seeking to make the Plus-2 examination marks the basis for admissions to medical colleges in the state.
The bill, which was passed by the Assembly, was forwarded to the Governor RN Ravi for clearance. Ravi’s refusal to do is a major source of the tensions between the Governor and the Tamil Nadu government.
(Names of some of Swetha’s friends have been changed on request.)