Undergraduate medical seat aspirants in Tamil Nadu can finally exhale. Just when they had almost given up hope, the Centre on Sunday agreed to open an exemption window for the contentious National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) for Tamil Nadu candidates alone this year. Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s statement that the Centre would consider the request if the state Ordinance mentioned how rural students would be at a disadvantage, appeared strange since the draft Ordinance has already been vetted by the Union government. Last year’s Ordinance too had harped on the rural skew while making its case for exemption.
As if on cue, Tamil Nadu Health Minister Vijaya Basker began the process of promulgation by putting Health Secretary Dr J Radhakrishnan on an evening flight to Delhi with relevant papers for final clearance from the Union home, law, health and HRD ministries. The Ordinance will then go to the Governor for approval.
The Ordinance is the outcome of weeks of intense lobbying in Delhi with Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami leading from the front. During his last meeting with PM Modi too, he had hammered on NEET. Basker, Radhakrishnan and Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker M Thambidurai did the follow-up work. They wouldn’t have spent so much time in Delhi had the response been negative.
The CM now gets bragging rights for pulling it off at a time when he is grappling with key issues within his own party. He is slowly cultivating the image of a doer who knows when and where to press the right buttons. That is worrying a section of the BJP, which thinks he may end up being too stable for comfort.
The government on June 30 set up two committees to review the state board syllabus, which had not been revised for more than 10 years. The panels are already on the job. Here’s hoping the next batch of students would be NEET-ready and spared of the agony their peers felt this year.