S Anitha was a 17-year-old girl from a Dalit family in the Kuzhumar village in Ariyalur district of Tamil Nadu. She wanted to study medicine and had scored brilliantly in class 12 state board exams. However, unlike earlier times, this was not enough for her to secure a seat in a medical college.
The government had recently implemented a NEET-based admission process – a curse for so many who have studied in state board schools and do not have the money for specialised coaching.
She went to the Supreme Court impleading herself as as a respondent demanding an exemption to NEET for Tamil Nadu, but was unable to secure it. Following this, the NEET merit list came out and she had not made the cut.
Even though she had gotten selected for admission in the prestigious Madras Institute of Technology for Aeronautical Engineering and in the Veterinary College at Orathanadu, Anitha lost her will to live and hanged herself on Friday.
Spectacular Marks in Class 12 Of Little Use for Admissions
In class 12, she had scored 1,176 marks out of 1,200. This, according to a TNM report, could have ensured her a seat in one of the three government medical colleges in Chennai had the basis of admissions not changed entirely.
In a video shared by Dalit activist Gowthama Meena in May 2017, Anitha informs her viewers that she wanted to work for the society as a doctor. She also said that father T Shanmugam is a daily wage labourer and she had lost her mother at an early age.
The Supreme Court had on 22 August ordered the Tamil Nadu government to begin medical admissions based on NEET. The SC verdict came after the Centre refused to endorse Tamil Nadu’s draft ordinance seeking one-year exemption from NEET.
NEET Tougher for Poor People
In an interview to News18 Tamil, Anitha had said, “NEET is tougher for poor people than even for people from rural areas, as we don’t have the money to pay for coaching classes or the opportunity. 12 is the base for everything and we are going to at least study till 12th.”
The village where I am from... except for two or three people, no one wrote NEET. Even they didn’t make it. They are also talented. When people like us don’t have the means or the opportunities to attend coaching classes, we can only prosper using what we have.S Anitha to News 18 Tamil
Anitha’s Family Hopes Their Loss Will At Least Help Others
Anitha's brother Maniratnma was beyond consolation. He was closest to her. "I was the one who kept encouraging her to become a doctor. For two years, she studied very well and got 1176/1200," he told TNM.
It was Maniratnam who had signed Anitha’s petition against NEET in the Supreme Court as she was a minor.
Anitha was a quiet person and prefered keeping to herself. She only became popular among the people from her village when she went to New Delhi to file a petition in the SC against NEET.
According to a TNM report, everybody who knew her says that he only dream was to become the first doctor in her community. They also say that she wanted to become a doctor to serve people.
Her brother Manirathnam had asked her to take the course she gets. They had even finalised on the veterinary course and Anitha had attended the second round of counseling. Her classes were supposed to start on Monday.
"Centre should definitely remove NEET otherwise how will people like us get admissions?” Shanmugham asks. “Nothing like this should happen to anyone else."
Manirathnam adds cynically: “Apparently, change can only happen if someone dies.”
I’m not saying this because I’m Anitha’s brother, but in Tamil Nadu, it has always been like this. The fight to remove NEET was not only for Anitha but many others like her. I hope her death will help in getting relief for many others.Manirathnam to TNM
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