By Dr. Gyan Pathak
The letter sent by the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu M K Stalin to the chief ministers of 12 states is just a beginning of the stiff opposition to Modi government’s usurping the powers of the states through central legislations not only on the matters pertaining to concurrent list of the Constitution of India, but also on the subjects that are in the state list. Not only that, the Centre is doing politics even at the level of Panchayats through various schemes undermining the fundamental concept of Federal Democratic Republic on the basis of which the country should be constitutionally run.
Though, M K Stalin’s letter to the twelve chief ministers of the opposition ruled states is written in special reference to the National Eligibility and Entrance Test (NEET), he has emphasized that it was important to assert their constitutional right and position in deciding the method of admission to higher educational institutions. Obviously, Stalin has tried to widen the scope and ambit of the united opposition from NEET to entire spectrum of the higher education in the country in which the Centre has been interfering through UGC and other institution and policies including the National Education Policy. If may further widen to other areas in which the Centre has been trying to usurp the powers of the states.
The letter has been sent to the chief ministers of Punjab, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Telangana, Delhi, Kerala, and Goa. M K Stalin has called for a united effort to restore the primacy of state governments in administering the education sector, as envisaged in the Constitution of India.
It is worth mentioning here that several of the centre’s policies and legislations are not welcome in various states. As for education is concerned, non-BJP ruled states and many noted academicians find the Centre’s moves detrimental to progress in education and even reactionary which they fear may ultimately hamper the scientific temperament and eliminate the poor, apart from creating numerous other problems at the ground level. Additionally, the allegation of colouring the education sector in saffron, making it costly and out of reach of the poor, tampering the democratic temperament of the people are among the other serious matters to be taken note of.
NEET is just one example of eliminating poor and exacerbating the severe shortage of suitable doctors in the rural areas. After the evidence of these surfaced in the state of Tamil Nadu, the state had to resort to getting the Tamil Nadu Admission to Undergraduate Medical Degree Courses Act, 2021 passed so as to free the state from the damage that the Centre was doing in the state through NEET examination.
The letter also contains the report of the Justice A K Rajan Committee on the impact of NEET on socially backward students, and the chief ministers were informed as to what the state has done so far to protect the interest of the poor and the backward class students.
“NEET Eliminates Poor”, the former judge of the Madras High Court Justice A K Rajan has said in his report and has also said if it continues, Primary Health Centres in the rural Tami Nadu will not get doctors in future. “NEET drives away the poor, only the rich and the affluent garner most seats. When you remove local students (students for Tamil Nadu) from studying MBBS, after becoming doctors affluent people are not going to serve in PHCs in remote areas. They will go abroad to continue studies and look after their life,” Justice Rajan has said.
Before NEET became mandatory, a higher number of students managed to get admissions though they came largely through government schools. Today, poor students are increasingly not applying for NEET out of fear that they will not make it as the test is based on CBSE, a different curriculum, said Justice Rajan.
It must also be noted that Indians are multi-lingual society most of them converse in their own local languages due to their very poor level of education in general and in other languages in particular. In this situation we also need doctors who can talk to the patients in their own languages, but the NEET is creating regional disbalance, ultimately harming the peoples’ well being.
“Our considered position has always been that the move by the Union Government to introduce NEET goes against the spirit of the federalism and violates the constitutional balance of power by curbing the rights of state governments to decide on the method of admission in the medical institutions founded, established, and run by them,” the letter read. The support of CMs from other states was crucial to “ensure that students of our respective states, hailing from rural areas and marginalized sections of the society, are not put to hardship in obtaining admissions to higher educational institutions”.
NEET was introduced in the country from 2017-18. On September 13, 2021, the Tamil Nadu Bill to disassociate the state from NEET was passed, but it would need the President’s approval which may not seen light of the day since it challenges a central law. Hence the letter of M K Stalin to 12 chief ministers calling for joint opposition, if succeeds may lead to joint opposition in several other areas of state subjects through which the Centre has been playing politics to the ground level undermining the constitutional provisions of three tier governance – Centre-State-and-Panchayati-Raj. (IPA Service)