Frisking faux pas

The college had previously maintained that they had no role in the frisking of students and had pinned the blame on the agency contracted by the NTA for the fiasco
Representative Image
Representative Image PTI

In a classic case of throwing the baby out with the bath water, two college teachers in Kollam, Kerala have been arrested for compelling female candidates to remove their innerwear before appearing for the NEET. The staffers engaged in frisking the women candidates were directed by the aforementioned exam in-charge and the NEET observer to ask the girls to remove their innerwear prior to the exam. The flimsy grounds upon which such a shameful instruction was issued was that the metal detector used in frisking had beeped due to the presence of fastening hooks in the garment.

The incident has turned into a cause for tremendous embarrassment not just for the college in question, but even for the Kerala government and the National Testing Agency that had put in place such stringent guidelines that prohibit students from carrying any metal objects into the examination hall. The college had previously maintained that they had no role in the frisking of students and had pinned the blame on the agency contracted by the NTA for the fiasco. While the NTA has ordered for a fact finding panel to be constituted, the Kerala Women’s Commission has also filed a suo moto case.

It might be recalled that such episodes of indignity heaped upon aspirants of competitive exams have made headlines every now and then. In the past, students have been asked to snip off portions of their garments, such as sleeves in full-sleeved shirts and there have even been reports of boys compelled to write their exams without shirts and shoes. An incident similar to the latest one, involving exam officials asking a student in Kannur, Kerala to remove her innerwear prior to NEET was reported in 2017.

Back then, the CBSE had asked the principal of the school to tender an official apology, stating that the board would sensitise the school staffers appropriately to avoid any such incidents in the future. However, it maintained that the protocol of frisking was necessary considering the cheating scandal of the All India Pre Medical and Dental Test (AIPMT) of 2015. The dress regulations were made even more stringent after police had reported students using miniature Bluetooth enabled devices concealed in their ears and their innerwear during AIPMT 2015.

The Supreme Court had also directed the CBSE to develop a mechanism to conduct the exam in a fair and transparent manner, and the CBSE had in turn issued guidelines pertaining to frisking and dress code. Having said that, it is necessary that the stakeholders involved in such decision making take a nuanced approach to the question of dress codes. Reliance on high tech scanners that eliminate the need for close contact frisking can be one of the options.

It must also be understood that students appearing for such competitive exams are already in a state of elevated anxiety as the fear of performance looms in the back of their minds. Here in Tamil Nadu, where exam pressure has witnessed a tragically high toll in terms of student suicides, the implication of treating the aspirants with dignity and respect cannot be overstated. The officials conducting the exams need to ensure that rather than adding to the heartache of the aspirants, they need to create a peaceful and conducive atmosphere where the students can appear for the exam and focus purely on the goals at hand, and nothing beyond.

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