Five candidates for the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test died by suicide in Tamil Nadu this week, NDTV reported on Sunday. The entrance examination to medical courses is being held across the country on Sunday.

Aditya, the son of a scrap merchant from Dharmapuri, who could not clear NEET last year, was found dead at his home this week. Two other students Jotishri, and Motilal, son of a trader in Tiruchengode town of Tamil Nadu, also died last week. Motilal was to appear for the exam this week. A 19-year-old woman from Madurai and Vignesh, a farmer’s son in Ariyalur, who couldn’t afford a private college last year, also died by suicide this week, the police said.

Jothishri, Aditya and Motilal killed themselves on Saturday, The Hindu reported. “I have prepared well for the examination, but still I fear …what if I do not get [a medical] seat,” Jothisri wrote in her suicide note. Tamil Nadu Revenue Minister RB Udhayakumar met the family of the deceased.

Namakkal Superintendent of Police S Sakthi Ganesan said that no suicide note was found on Motilal. His body has been sent for autopsy.

Nearly 2.3 lakh students will appear for the NEET in Maharashtra, 1.67 lakh in Uttar Pradesh, 1.19 lakh in Karnataka, 1.18 lakh in Tamil Nadu and 1.16 lakh in Kerala on Sunday. Overall, more than 16 lakh students will take the exam.

The Supreme Court had earlier this month rejected petitions to postpone NEET and the Joint Entrance Examination in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The JEE has already been held from September 1 to 6, and the results declared.

Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam expressed grief. “Students should learn to face any situation with guts and parents should help them in this,” he said on Saturday.

Tamil Nadu had earlier urged the Centre to exempt it from NEET. The state had banned all medical entrance exams for nearly a decade, citing pressure on students and lack of affordability of attending private coaching classes.

Leaders of opposition parties continued to criticise the government, while workers from several political parties staged a protest in Madurai against holding the exam.

“None of the 19,000 students who were offered free NEET coaching through the 412 government-run coaching centres could clear the entrance last year,” DMK MLA P Saravanan told reporters. “This reveals that poor and rural students need special coaching to clear NEET and that comes at a huge cost,” he said.

Earlier this week, Pattali Makkal Katchi founder S Ramadoss had called for NEET to be permanently cancelled. “Abolishing NEET is the only solution,” he had said on Wednesday.