ARIYALUR: In her last few weeks, she represented the angst of the less fortunate, but no less ambitious, youth against the National Entrance cum Eligibility Test (NEET). And in her death, their anguish. Failed by the very system she tried hard to integrate herself into by scoring an impressive 1,176/1,200 in Class XII examination, S Anitha, daughter of a Dalit daily-wage labourer from backward Ariyalur district, 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 a spectacular performance in the State Board Class 12 examination, with high score 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 had studied. She was also selected for Bachelor of Veterinary Science in Veterinary College in Orathanadu.
“But I want to be a doctor,” the teenager had told Express, as she approached the Supreme Court against making NEET scores mandatory for medical admissions. To a State where thousands study under State Board syllabus, Anitha represented their angst. Despite scoring high marks in Class 12 — till now the qualifying criteria for medical and engineering admissions — Anitha fared poorly in the NEET test that was based on a syllabus alien to her — the CBSE.
This was 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 against it 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 got over, it emerged that Anitha had killed herself at her home in Kuzhumur village in Ariyalur, the most backward among the districts in the State. Protests erupted almost immediately, with her family members and other villagers staging road blockades. The minister and higher officials expressed grief, while other political parties issued statements expressing shock and condemned the State government for dragging the matter on till the point of no return.
But after the dust settles in a few days, Anitha will become a meaningless statistic, quite like the seemingly high marks she scored. Let’s remember that a girl from a Dalit family in a backward village scored 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 had fought her way to the docks.