A man in Chennai died by suicide on Sunday night, a day after his son ended his life following his unsuccessful attempts to clear the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test or NEET, reported The Indian Express.

NEET is a qualifying test for undergraduate courses in medical and dental colleges across India. It is conducted by the National Testing Agency.

Many NEET aspirants in Tamil Nadu have have killed themselves after which in September 2021, the Assembly had passed a bill seeking to exempt the state from the ambit of the centralised medical exam. The bill proposed that admission of students to medical courses be carried out based on Class 12 examination results.

Tamil Nadu has been opposing the examination on the grounds that the entrance test, based on a Central Board of Secondary Education syllabus, harms the prospects of state board students who follow a different curriculum.

However, Governor RN Ravi had not granted assent to the bill. The Tamil Nadu Assembly then adopted the bill again in February 2022. The bill then went to President Droupadi Murmu since education is in the concurrent list of the Constitution.

On Saturday, 19-year-old Jagadeeswaran, who had failed to clear NEET twice, became the latest aspirant to die by suicide in the state. His father, P Selvasekhar, had said on Sunday that following Jagadeeswaran’s failed attempts to clear the examination, he had suggested his son to go abroad for studies.

“But, he said he would take up the test again and secure the qualifying marks and get admission in a medical college,” Selvasekhar told reporters. Hours later, he also died by suicide.

The deaths come after Ravi had said on Saturday that he would never clear the bill if it were up to him as he does not want students to feel “intellectually disabled”. The governor declared that the exam was “going to stay in the country”.

16 students have died: CM urges president to clear NEET bill

On Monday, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin wrote to Murmu and urged her to clear the bill to exempt the state from NEET at the earliest, reported PTI.

“With this [Jagadeeswaran’s death], the toll of students who have died by suicide due to NEET has increased to 16 in our state,” he told the president in a letter. “These tragedies could have been definitely avoided if our bill for exemption from NEET had been given assent and the medical admissions done on the basis of +2 marks.”

The chief minister said that the bill was passed based on the report of Justice AK Rajan Committee that had studied the NEET-based admission process and its adverse impact on poor and rural students.

“Each day of delay in its implementation costs not only valuable medical seats to deserving students but invaluable human lives to our society,” he wrote. “I, therefore, solicit your immediate intervention in he matter and urge you to accord assent at the earliest to the above Bill passed by the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly.”

Those who say ‘I will not sign’ will disappear: CM

In a statement to students, Stalin claimed that political change will take place in a few months and the NEET barriers will come crashing down, reported PTI.

“Then, all those who say ‘I will not sign’ will disappear,” the chief minister said, referring to Ravi’s remarks.

Stalin mourned the deaths of Jagadeeswaran and his father. “Let their deaths be the last on the altar of NEET,” he added.

The chief minister said that Ravi “displayed his ignorance” by saying that he would never clear the bill.

“The bill does not await his signature,” he said. “It rests with the president. Governor has no authority as far as this is concerned, though he is giving the impression that he wields authority.”

The chief minister appealed to students to not ever make a decision to end their lives under any circumstances.

“NEET, which is a hurdle for your growth, will be scrapped,” he assured them. “Jagadeeswaran-like students’ deaths will not affect people like Governor Ravi...Let it be the last death before the deadly trap of NEET. Let us continue to fight and live instead of ending lives.”

If you have suicidal feelings, please consider seeking help through the helplines and resources listed here.