CHENNAI: The monsoon session of the Tamil Nadu Assembly began on Monday amidst demands for a ban on the National Eligibility cum Entrance cum Test (NEET) from the main opposition party DMK and its allies.
On the first day of the session, the House paid homage to President Pranab Mukherjee, Congress MP H Vasanthakumar, DMK MLA J Anbazhagan, and those who lost their lives to COVID-19 including the frontline staff who succumbed to the virus. Speaker P Dhanapal adjourned the proceedings of the House without transacting any business as a mark of respect for the departed souls.
The Speaker read out obituary references for 23 former MLAs including former Ministers A Rehman Khan and K Lawrence, trade union leader G Kalan and former BJP president KN Lakshmanan.
When the House proceedings for the day started, Leader of the Opposition MK Stalin said many NEET aspirants have died during the past few days and a condolence resolution should be adopted in the Assembly. However, Speaker P Dhanapal did not accept that. DMK MLAs wore masks with the words: "Ban NEET; Save TN students". Of the 235 MLAs, 26 were absent due to various reasons and a few of them are being treated for COVID-19.
Talking to reporters after the House was adjourned, Leader of the Opposition MK Stalin charged that the ruling AIADMK had failed to exert sufficient pressure on the Centre to scrap NEET and the AIADMK government was staging a drama in this regard.
Answering a question in this regard, Health Minister C Vijaya Basker said the DMK and Congress have no moral right to raise the NEET issue since they were trying to lock the stable door after the horse had bolted. Everyone knew that the MCI notification for NEET was issued on December 27, 2010, when the Congress-DMK led UPA government was in power. The NEET was being implemented based on a verdict of the Supreme Court while the AIADMK had been consistent in opposing NEET.
Stalin also said the DMK's demand to hold the session for a longer duration to discuss issues affecting the public was not accepted by the Speaker.
Numerous notices have been given to the Assembly Secretariat by the DMK and its allies for call attention motions and special mentions on various issues including the National Education Policy NEET, etc. DMK president MK Stalin has given notice for a private member's resolution demanding the withdrawal of the draft Environment Impact Assessment notification.
The venue for the Tamil Nadu Assembly session has been shifted after a gap of 10 years. In 2010, the session was held in the New Assembly hall constructed in Omandurar government estate during the previous DMK regime. However, after the AIADMK came to power in 2011, the Assembly hall was shifted to Fort St George again. Since the Assembly hall at Fort St George could not accommodate all members with physical distancing to avoid the spread of COVID-19, the venue has now been shifted to Kalaivanar Arangam.
The State Public Works Department has replicated everything in the Assembly hall in Fort St George at the Kalaivanar Arangam. The century-old Speaker's Chair donated by Lord Willingdon, Governor of Madras Presidency, in 1922 which has been used by many Speakers has been brought to Kalaivanar Arangam for this session. However, the original portraits of the late leaders were not shifted. Instead, replicas of the portraits have been placed in Kalaivanar Arangam.