Anitha had a dream, a poor Dalit village girl who would become a doctor — but it died with her
She scored 1,176/1,200 in Class 12, but S Anitha, daughter of a Dalit labourer from backward Ariyalur in Tamil Nadu, didn’t score high in NEET. Missing a medical seat, she killed herself on Friday.
CHENNAI: In her last few weeks, she had represented the angst of the less fortunate but no less ambitious youth against the National Entrance cum Eligibility Test (NEET) that was based on a syllabus foreign to her. And in her death, their anguish.
Failed by the system she tried hard to integrate herself into by scoring a very high 1,176/1,200 in Class 12, S Anitha, daughter of a Dalit daily wage labourer from the most backward Ariyalur district in Tamil Nadu, killed herself by hanging on Friday.
It was the last day of the first phase of counselling for medical admissions, which, being based on the marks scored in NEET, held no hope for thousands of aspirants like her.
Anitha, 16, had recorded spectacular performance in the State Board Class 12 examination, scoring high cut-off marks of 199.75 for engineering and 196.75 for medicine. She was offered a seat in aeronautical engineering at the Madras Institute of Technology, the premier institute where former president APJ Abdul Kalam studied. She was also selected for Bachelor of Veterinary Science in Veterinary College at Orathanadu.
"But I want to be a doctor,” the teenager had told Express, as she approached the Supreme Court against making the NEET score mandatory for medical admissions.
To a State where thousands study under the State Board syllabus, Anitha represented their angst. Despite scoring very high marks in Class 12 -- till now the qualifying criteria for medical and engineering admissions -- Anitha fared poorly in the national level test that was based on the CBSE syllabus.
Her case represented a fear raised repeatedly by equitable education activists.
When the Supreme Court agreed to hear the plea by pro-NEET students represented by senior advocate Nalini Chidambaram, an affidavit was filed in Anitha’s name, signed by her father T Shanmugham, a casual labourer at the Gandhi Market in Tiruchy, as she was still a minor. The court, however, was not convinced.
On Friday, as the first phase of the much-delayed medical admission concluded, information came that Anitha had hanged herself at her home in Sendurai village in Ariyalur.
Protests erupted almost immediately, with her family members and villagers staging road blockades. Minister and higher officials expressed grief, and political parties have already issued statements expressing shock and condemnation of the State government for dragging the matter on till the point of no return.
But after the dust settles in a few days, Anitha would become a meaningless statistic, quite like the high marks she scored. What one must remember is that a girl from a Dalit family in a backward village scored a 1,176/1,200, but was still pushed to despair, as the ship that she was to board had set sail by the time she fought her way to the port.