Tamil Nadu teen finally gets medical seat, thanks 7.5% quota

After the report on her struggle in the face of a centralised examination for medical admission, DMK chief M K Stalin had met Gomathi and handed over a cheque for her education.

A Gomathi, 19, was among 227 government school students of Tamil Nadu selected for medical admission in the state on the first day of counselling on Wednesday, thanks to 7.5 per cent reservation introduced by the state exclusively for government school students who clear the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET).

Gomathi’s struggle—“A day in the life of A Gomathi, an aspiring medical student from Tamil Nadu state board”—was published first in The Indian Express in July 2018. It was a time the state was witness to heated debates and protests, followed by suicides of several Tamil students from ecomically poor background who failed to clear NEET despite getting high marks in Class XII.

After the report on her struggle in the face of a centralised examination for medical admission, DMK chief M K Stalin had met Gomathi and handed over a cheque for her education.

“Why not provide us equal opportunity before forcing us to compete with CBSE, ICSE students? If the Prime Minister came, I would tell him, ‘I will prove myself, but give us equal education before you make us write a common exam’,” Gomathi had said in 2018, after she failed to clear NEET even after topping her school in Class XII Board exams.

Even as several suicides of medical aspirants shook the state in the last three years, Gomathi did not let the “unfair” exam system kill her spirit. She worked hard – 20 hours every day, studying textbooks – as her parents, daily wage labourers, struggled to run the family.

On Thursday, she was at Stanley Medical College in Chennai with her father R Anbazhagan, who used to work as a cleaner at a TV showroom. “I should thank everyone. I was ranked 21st, and managed to get into Stanley Medical College. Even if there was no reservation (7.5 per cent) for government school students, I would have got in, but in a college away from Chennai,” Gomathi told The Indian Express.

She said she did not take coaching and studied on her own. For Anbazhagan, with his monthly salary of Rs 7,500, it was impossible to collect Rs 45,000 required for NEET coaching for his daughter.

Gomathi’s grandfather, Virugambakkam Aranganathan, was one of the first protestors who immolated himself in the anti-Hindi agitation in Tamil Nadu in 1965. In his memory, a busy subway lane in Chennai’s Saidapet is known as Aranganathan Subway.

Gomathi comes from a Dalit family and lives in a 400-sq-ft, two-room house that has a large portrait of B R Ambedkar, a wedding gift for her parents.

On Thursday, Tamil Nadu’s School Education Minister, K A Sengottaiyan, said that seeking permanent exemption for the state from NEET is a policy decision of the state government, and Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami is taking consistent efforts to achieve this.

In the ongoing counselling, many students from weaker sections – like Gomathi – benefited from the state’s policy to implement 7.5 per cent reservation for government school students. The state had taken an executive route after a Bill was unanimously passed in the Assembly but was pending for the Governor’s assent for over a month.

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