Chennai: Tamil Nadu’s ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) on Saturday launched a signature campaign against the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) for admission into medical and dental colleges and invited arch-rival AIADMK to participate in the protest and support the cause since it has now quit the BJP alliance.
The signature camp, which will be conducted by the Youth, Students, and Medical wings of the DMK both online and offline across Tamil Nadu, aims to reach out to over 50 lakh people and submit the petitions to President Draupadi Murmu.
During his speech at the event, DMK youth wing chief and Sports Minister Udhayanidhi Stalin displayed an egg with NEET written on it, mocking the Union Government’s decision to reduce the qualifying percentile for NEET PG 2023 to zero, and to prove his point that the exam has nothing to do with “merit.”
NEET has been an emotional and political issue in Tamil Nadu with nearly a dozen students ending their lives either due to fear of appearing for the exam or clearing it and all political parties, except the BJP, demanding for its removal.
The DMK renewed its protests against NEET in August after a 19-year-old medical aspirant killed himself after failing to secure admission in a government medical college despite clearing NEET. His father too ended his life by suicide, sending shock waves across the state.
Though the signature campaign is spearheaded by DMK, Udhayanidhi told members of the three wings to ensure that it turns into a people’s movement.
“There is no stronger force in this world than people’s emotions. The Union Government should understand that the sentiments of the people of Tamil Nadu are against NEET. I would like to appeal to the AIADMK to support the signature campaign. Let us join hands like in the past to express our opposition,” he said.
“Since you (AIADMK) say that you snapped ties with the BJP in the interest of the state, I appeal to you to support this campaign and speak against NEET. Don’t think this is DMK’s problem. This is Tamil Nadu’s problem,” the Sports Minister added.
The state government passed a legislation in 2021 seeking exemption from NEET but it was returned to the Assembly in 2022 – the bill was re-enacted and sent back to Governor R N Ravi who referred it to the President of India.
Tamil Nadu believes NEET discriminates against students from rural areas who are forced to compete with those from urban areas. The government has been pushing for the Education subject to be brought back to the State list of the Constitution.
(Published 21 October 2023, 13:27 IST)