A day labourer's daughter who had done brilliantly in the Tamil Nadu board exams but stumbled in the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test today hanged herself, days after her last hopes of securing a medical seat were dashed.
S. Anitha, 17, had impleaded herself into a Supreme Court case the state government had been fighting, seeking an exemption from the nationwide rule of having to admit medical and dental students solely onthe basis of their NEET scores.
Tamil Nadu, one of the more progressive states inmatters of social justice, had abolished entrance exams for the professional courses as early as 2007 and admitted students on the strength of their Class XII board marks.
State officials feel competitive exams hand an enormous disadvantage to rural students from impoverished backgrounds who study in the vernacular medium and cannot afford private coaching.
As other states began admitting medical students this summer, Anitha and her peers in Tamil Nadu remained on tenterhooks. Eventually, on August 22, the apex court directed the state to complete all medical admissions according to the NEET results by September 4.
Friends and relatives said Anitha, daughter of Shanmugham of Ariyalurdistrict, 300km from here, had fallen into a depression since then, because "becoming a doctor was her life's ambition". Her parents were away when she was found hanging at her home in Kuzhumur village.
Her death has triggered an uproar in the state. While residents of her village staged a roadblock, Opposition politicians slammed the stategovernment for failing to obtain a repeat of the exemption from the NEET it had got from the apex court last year.
The Centre, many of whose ministers had promised to help the state secure the exemption again, was under the cosh too.
This year, Tamil Nadu had reserved 85 per cent of its medical seats for state board students - a back-up plan in case it failed to secure full exemption from the NEET in court again.
When students from other boards contested the 85 per cent reservation, the Supreme Court ruled in their favour.
Anitha had scored 1,176 out of 1200 in the Class XII boards and was virtually assured a medical seat, being from the Scheduled Castes. But she had secured only 86 out of 700 in the NEET, conducted by the CentralBoard of Secondary Education, whose syllabus differs vastly from that taught by the state board.
In Delhi, a school principal said that Anitha's suicide reflected a lack of coping skills among the young in an age of rising aspirations, and urged families to counsel them.
"It's time to start training children about coping skills. It's time to develop their emotional strength. Every day is a challenge - a child has to understand that everything will not go her way," Ameeta Mulla Wattal, principal of Springdales School, Pusa Road, said