Cheating: NEET candidate asked to remove bra exposes crisis in CBSE

According to reports, other women candidates too were subjected to similar treatment due to a 'dress code' in force.

 |  5-minute read |   08-05-2017
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If only the bra could hold some real answers than just breasts.

The innocuous innerwear for women made headlines across news websites on Monday morning after a female candidate appearing for the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) at a centre in Kannur (Kerala) on May 7 was allegedly asked to remove her bra before taking the exam.

“My daughter went inside the centre, only to return later and hand me her top innerwear because it had metal hooks,” her mother was quoted as saying by the IANS.

But it's not just the bra that caught the invigilators' eyes.

According to agency reports, other women candidates too were subjected to similar treatment due to a "dress code" in force. A candidate, who was wearing a pair of jeans, was asked to remove a pocket and the metal buttons from the clothing.

A parent told mediapersons that families living in the vicinity of the exam centre helped candidates by giving them "suitable clothes" to wear.

“I know of a Muslim family which gave six tops to candidates to wear. Even more shocking was the fact that authorities did not permit anyone to wear full-sleeved top. Those wearing such sleeves had to cut it to make it short-sleeved."

Candidates and their wards from various centres across cities later told mediapersons about similar experience after appearing for the test conducted for admission to undergraduate medical courses in government and private medical colleges in the country.

Reportedly, the Central Board of Secondary Education, which conducts the NEET, had on April 25 notified candidates to be "well-dressed at exam centres to "ensure smooth and transparent conduct of NEET 2017". Students were also warned that they need to follow these instructions otherwise they might not be allowed to sit in the examination. Students were advised to wear "light coloured clothes" and "half sleeves", which do not have big buttons, badges, etc. Also, ornaments like rings, earrings, nose pin, chain, necklace, pendants, etc, the guidelines said, will have to be removed before entering the examination hall.

"The entry time on exam day is 7.30 am. Candidates are advised to wear light-coloured clothes, and shoes are not allowed." Instead, it said, they can wear chappals or sandals. Also, any kind of stationery, communication devices, ornaments or watches is strictly prohibited inside the examination hall.

However, the word/item/device "bra" was nowhere found mentioned in the guidelines.

ne_050817014408.jpgScreengrab: collegedunia.com

The board says it had set such standards for clothes to stop cases of cheating. 

The guidelines were introduced in 2015, after a test was cancelled following alleged irregularities in NEET, which has been mired in controversy due to paper leak almost every year. The All India Pre-Medical Dental Test, which was replaced by NEET in 2016, was held again as per an order by the Supreme Court that year. The test was held in as many as 104 cities across the country, for which more than 11 lakh aspirants had registered.

While the board officials arguments to "stop cheating" are fine, there is a problem with the way the instructions were carried out. The candidates, both male and female, have every right to ask for privacy and not be forced to take off clothes in front of staring officials.

A Deccan Chronicle  report quoted a student from Kasaragod as saying that officials asked her to remove her brassiere when the metal detector made a beep sound because of its steel buckle.

“They asked me to change the innerwear, but this is mentioned nowhere in NEET instructions,” she said. “It was already 9.20am and I had only 10 more minutes to enter the hall. I asked them to permit me use the toilet to change, but they refused. There were no houses nearby. Thankfully, only lady invigilators and staff were present at the entry point. So I removed it from there itself.”

According to The Hindu, the authorities at the Delhi Public School centre in Bangalore, stocked up on T-shirts to offer to students whose clothes did not meet the dress code. Students wearing "closed shoes" had to leave their footwear outside the exam hall. In Chennai, some candidates had to cut their full-sleeve shirts to half sleeves. Authorities at examination centres in Andhra Pradesh made women candidates untie their hair to prove they were not concealing any prohibited articles.

The CBSE in its efforts to ensure that examination are conducted in a fair manner chose to ignore the mental and physical trauma on students as a direct result of such implementation of rules.

"The ordeal is over, but it’s debatable how many female candidates would have been able to write the exam properly after they were subjected to so much humiliation,” Kerala Mahila Congress president Bindhu Krishna was quoted in this report. "I will write to chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan to seek action against those responsible.”

In February 2016, more than 1,000 young men, who had applied for at least 70 clerical and technical jobs positions in the armed forces, were made to sit cross-legged, in their briefs for the one-hour test taken outdoors in Bihar's Muzaffarpur city. That time as well, the "method was applied" to prevent cheating.

The director of the Army recruitment board had defended the outrageous order by saying, “We earlier had a bad experience while conducting exams. This has been done to avoid cheating.”

It's true cheating in examination is rampant across India, but the lack of sensibility on part of boards conducting various exams raises concern about the physiological impact of such measures on the mental health of candidates, especially when they are enforced blindly. 

Also read: NEET is important for medical education, but give it some time

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