Jothi Durga, a 19-year-old student in Madurai who was to appear for the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) for admission to medical courses, wrote a note and killed herself just a day before the exam scheduled for September 13.
“To everyone,” Jothi’s suicide note in English said, “It is not your fault. Don’t blame yourself and anyone. I love you all.” She went on to say that all of her family had great expectations of her and that if she did not get a seat in a college, then “all your hard work for me will go in vain. I am sorry. I am tired.” She also shared an audio note which was recorded in her phone. The voice note went viral on social media. “I have studied well, but I am scared,” she says in the voice note. “If I don’t get a seat, all of you will feel cheated. I am sorry Appa. I am sorry Amma. Tata.”
This is the fifth NEET-related student death in about three years. Anitha, Pradeepa, Sivasangari (Puducherry) and Vignesh were the other students who had killed themselves because of the pressure piled on students by the introduction of NEET. Four years ago, the suicide of Anitha, a Dalit, following her poor performance in NEET despite her impressive score of 1176/1200 in the higher secondary examinations led to huge protests in Tamil Nadu demanding withdrawal of NEET. Now, Jothi Durga’s death by suicide has revived the widespread demand in Tamil Nadu that the State government should have the Central government scrap the examination.
NEET was made compulsory in 2017 and implemented in Tamil Nadu too, despite stiff opposition from all State-level political parties. The State government had approached the Supreme Court with a plea to cancel NEET but failed to get an order in its favour.
An added stress this year is the pandemic situation. But the Central government decided to go ahead with the examination. On January 7, 2020, The Tamil Nadu government filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of NEET, saying that it was against the welfare of students from rural backgrounds, after NEET was made mandatory for entry to medical and dental courses. The Supreme Court did not see merit in Tamil Nadu’s arguments.
“Suicide is not solution,” said DMK president M.K. Stalin in his condolence message posted on Facebook. “NEET is not an examination…. This examination has caused acute mental distress among students. This is what we realise from the continuing deaths of students, from Anita to Jothi,” he said.
“Suicides by students are continuing,” noted Jawahirullah M.H., of the Manithaneya Makkal Katchi “The Tamil Nadu government should not allow the conduct of NEET, which is devouring the students,” he added.
On a Tamil television channel, a BJP spokesperson advised students to read Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s book on how to face examinations. “Why are suicides happening only in Tamil Nadu? Why are students in U.P. and Bihar not dying by suicide,” he asked. He condemned the Tamil Nadu political parties’ demand for scrapping NEET and claimed that the parties were riding on the shock created by the suicide and playing politics with a death.