Four teachers were suspended, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan assured legislators of action and the CBSE admitted to “overzealousness”. A day after news broke that a NEET candidate in Kerala was asked to remove her bra as an anti- cheating measure, there was outrage and embarrassment both as authorities scrambled for an explanation. The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) that conducts the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) for admission to MBBS and BDS courses said today that the incident at an examination centre in Kannur in Kerala was “unfortunate” and a “consequence of overzealousness”. But it also defended its stringent dress code that saw another girl in Kerala forced to change her jeans as it had pockets with metal buttons and others in the country being asked to cut full sleeves, remove nose pins, earrings and hair clips.
“In order to secure the sanctity of this prestigious examination and to do justice to the genuine and sincere students and parents, CBSE has left no stone unturned to conduct the exam in a fair manner,” said CBSE spokesperson Rama Sharma. “The incident reported at Kannur is unfortunate and a consequence of the overzealousness of a few persons involved in the process. However, inconvenience caused to the students inadvertently in the process is regretted by the Board,” she said. As the news spread, four teachers in Kannur, ground zero of the controversy, were suspended. Jamaluddin K, principal of TISK English Medium school, one of the NEET centres, told PTI that four women teachers had been suspended pending inquiry though he was yet to receive any complaint.
The issue found angry echo in the Kerala Assembly as well with treasury and opposition benches condemning it. Responding to concerns expressed by members of the House, the chief minister said he would bring the matter to the Centre’s notice and that the police had been asked to examine the incidents. The specific incident of the young woman student being asked to remove her bra would examined legally after registering a case. “A woman police official has been directed to meet the student and her parents,” he said.
A furious Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala said the CBSE norms were “an insult to humanity”. The stripping of students and using metal detectors for physical examination was “cruel, inhuman and insulting” which created mental pressure on the students, he added. “Students had to beg, borrow and buy new dresses to appear for the examination after they were told that their clothing was not as per norms.” This is human rights violation, the Congress leader said, adding they had not come with bombs and pistols to write the test.
The Kerala Child Rights Commission has sought a detailed report from the CBSE within 10 days, while the Kerala Human Rights Commission suo motu registered a case against the education board and demanded a high-level probe. Parents of the affected children are also planning to write to the CBSE chairman and the National Human Rights Commission.
Faced with the barrage of criticism, the CBSE said in its defence that candidates had been “repeatedly instructed through website, information bulletins, printed instructions on admit cards and individual communication through emails and SMSs about the steps to be taken before entering the exam centres in the high-value and high-stake examination”. Over 11 lakh MBBS and BDS aspirants appeared for NEET on May 7 at over 1,900 centres across the country.