Chennai, Sep 13 (PTI) The National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) was held in over 200 centres across Tamil Nadu on Sunday amid elaborate COVID-19 measures and security while sporadic protests were staged against the exam following alleged suicides of three medical aspirants.
Approximately, 1.17 lakh candidates had enrolled for the exam and the aspirants arrived well in advance, as early as 11 am, at the exam centres and they were let inside in batches by following the COVID protocol.
The protests, seeking scrapping of the national test were staged by Left leaning student outfits, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, fringe Dravidian parties at places, including Madurai, Theni, Kumbakonam, Pudukottai, Rajapalayam and Karur, police said.
In some locations, children lit candles, paying homage to the three medical aspirants who died by suicide on Saturday in different places in the state.
Protestors briefly raised slogans and held placards alleging NEET 'ended' the dreams of young men and women to pursue MBBS.
Police dispersed the protestors and efforts by some agitating men to march towards exam centres were scuttled.
The VCK also held demonstrations against the National Education Policy.
The exam, that was held between 2 pm and 5 pm saw elaborate security arrangements and individual distancing signs were marked on the ground.
The candidates with face masks were allowed after thermal screening and exam centres were sanitised with disinfectants.
Personnel manning the entry points also wore face masks and used gloves and hand sanitisers were placed prominently.
Greater Chennai Police Commissioner Mahesh Kumar Aggarwal inspected the Kendriya Vidyalaya centre at the IIT-Madras campus here to review the security arrangements.
A total of 1,17,990 students had applied and were allotted as many as 238 centres.
Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal 'Nishank' in a tweet, quoting National Testing Agency (NTA), said around 85- 90 per cent students appeared in the exam nation-wide, but attendance figures at the state-level were yet to be announced.
Last year, the number of aspirants who had taken the test was about 1.34 lakh and the data reflected a drop of about 12.50 per cent this year.
The number of centres -188 last year- were increased to 200 plus in view of COVID norms despite a drop in the number of students.
Chennai alone had 42 centres and information on absentees was not immediately available.
In Tirunelveli district, a newly married woman reportedly removed her 'mangalsutra' and toe rings ahead of the exam and gave it to her family members as per the 'instructions' of authorities before entering the exam hall.
Also, there were allegations that in a number of centres, students could not take lunch inside the premises and had to take the test without having food.
Several students, after taking the test said the level of difficulty was lesser than expected and a deep study of the previous year questions also came in handy.
The Joint Entrance Exam and NEET, which were earlier scheduled to be held in July, were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Ahead of the exam, leaders including DMK president M K Stalin and VCK chief Thol Thirumavalavan urged students to be self-confident and bold while avoiding negative tendencies.
Chief Minister K Palaniswami has already appealed to students against extreme measures.
Sustained efforts and a determination to face any issue would bring success and there are myriad ways to emerge victorious in life, Palaniswami said and assured them that the government is always committed to their welfare.
Also, he appealed to parents to understand the aspirations of their children and render appropriate guidance so as to prevent suicidal tendencies. PTI VGN VS VS