Thirteen people protesting against the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test in Chennai were arrested on Thursday. The common entrance test is the deciding factor in admissions to undergraduate medical and dentistry colleges. Students and activists in Tamil Nadu have been protesting against it, after the Supreme Court last month ordered that admissions in state should also be based on Neet, and not the Class 12 results.

“We started our protest at 10 am,” said Grace Banu, one of the protestors. “Around 11 am, the police arrested us and locked us up in a nearby hall.”

Protests in the state have intensified after 17-year-old medical aspirant S Anitha ended her life when she failed to secure a medical seat through the test. She had even challenged its applicability in the Supreme Court.

“Neet should be cancelled,” Banu said. “Making such tests compulsory will give rise to private coaching. Education should not be privatised.”

A sub-inspector at the Guindy police station in Chennai said the protestors were arrested for assembling illegally, but refused to divulge further details.

Contested test

From 2017, the Central government made Neet compulsory for students in all states and across education boards.

In Tamil Nadu, medical admissions were based on marks scored in the Class 12 examination conducted by the state education board. But Neet is based on the Central Board of Secondary Education’s syllabus, which is vastly different. The Tamil Nadu government had been opposing the examination, saying a common test would harm prospects of students from the state.

In her appeal against the common test in the Supreme Court, Anitha pointed out how poor students who lived in villages could not afford the private coaching classes that students in cities could.