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NEET exemption: Tamil Nadu sends draft law to Delhi, Centre says nod likely

Chennai Tamil Nadu sent to the Centre on Monday a draft ordinance exempting state government colleges from a common national exam for medical and dental courses, National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) for a year. This comes a day after the Union government indicated it was likely to accept the longstanding demand. A senior health ministry official,however, said it was too early to say if the ordinance will be passed.

Official sources said the draft ordinance was sent to the Central government by a senior state health department official, keeping state government medical college seats outside the ambit of NEET that applies to the rest of India.

This came a day after Union commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman told reporters in Chennai that the Centre was likely to cooperate with Tamil Nadu if it brought an ordinance. Union minister Pon Radhakrishnan echoed her in Puducherry.

Tamil Nadu has been protesting against NEET for months, saying it was unfavourable to students from rural areas who usually wrote tests in Tamil and weren’t conversant in English. A system of reservation of medical seats in the state was also expected to be threatened under a common national system.

“The Centre is ready to cooperate in case the Tamil Nadu government comes up with an ordinance seeking exemption from NEET for government colleges,” Sitharaman said, adding the exemption was only for a year. Barring government colleges, NEET was already implemented for other institutes, the Union minister said.

Sources told HT the the draft ordinance had been crafted on the lines of a January legislation that pushed Tamil Nadu out of the ambit of a national anti-cruelty law of animals, thereby allowing the controversial bull-taming sport, Jallikattu, to go on. This came after huge protests that paralysed the southern state.

Terming Sitharaman’s remarks “good news”, state health minister Vijayabaskar said, “I thank Union minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on behalf of Tamil Nadu government and students.”

A senior health ministry official said it was too early to say whether the ordinance will be passed or not.

“They must be trying to bring in an ordinance but that doesn’t mean it will eventually be passed. There are various steps in between,” said the official, requesting anonymity.

If Tamil Nadu has its way then there’s likelihood of other states seeking exemption too. This will defeat the health ministry’s plan to conduct a common medical entrance examination at the national level.

“The health ministry has not seen the draft ordinance so far, and does not know what exactly Tamil Nadu wants. It is too early to fear that the ordinance will be passed,” the official said.

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