Unsurprising verdict: on TN's quota for medical students

The Madras High Court verdict striking down the Tamil Nadu government order that had earmarked 85% of seats in undergraduate medical and dental courses for students from the State Board is no surprise at all. Once it was laid down by law as well as by the Supreme Court that the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test will be the sole basis for admission to medical courses, it was unlikely that any court would have allowed a classification of students based on the stream through which they passed their higher secondary examinations. Tamil Nadu had abolished entrance tests in 2006, and since then has been admitting students based on their marks in the qualifying school examination. The only way out for the State was to get its legislation for an exemption from NEET approved by the President. In the absence of presidential assent for its Bills, it was forced to bring in reservation for State Board students through an executive order, but could not defend it in court. The State government will have to shoulder the blame for the confusion over its admission policy this year, as well as the tension it has caused to students. It ought not to have given the impression to students that presidential assent to its Bills was imminent and that NEET would not be the basis for admission this year. Last year it managed to convince the Centre to amend the law for a one-time exemption for undergraduate courses, but it did not utilise the time to prepare students to master the demanding NEET syllabus.

However, the fact that the State government failed to upgrade its educational standards does not mean Tamil Nadu’s apprehensions about NEET do not merit consideration. The fear that NEET would be insurmountable for students from rural and underprivileged backgrounds and those who cannot afford coaching centres is real. So too is the concern that the government may not get committed doctors to serve in rural areas if most of the seats are cornered by CBSE students. According to the government, if a NEET-based merit list is drawn up, 72% of medical seats in government colleges and government quota seats in private colleges would go to CBSE school students. Tamil Nadu is able to run its network of hospitals efficiently mainly because of a recruitment policy that gives weightage to service candidates in post-graduate medical admissions. NEET may be an answer to rampant commercialisation of medical education, but it should not be at the cost of the government’s socio-economic goals. In a country with regional, economic and linguistic disparities, uniformity is no virtue, especially when it is thrust on unwilling States. The political leadership at the Centre as well as in the States would do well to work together to evolve a flexible admission policy that gives some leeway to the States and meets the triple goals of fairness, transparency and freedom from exploitation in admissions.

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Printable version | Jun 10, 2021 9:43:16 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/unsurprising-verdict/article19280553.ece

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