Young women and girls who appeared for the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) at a private educational institution in Kollam district of Kerala suffered a humiliating experience on Sunday when they had to remove part of their undergarments to be allowed to write the exam.
According to the father of one such 17-year old girl, who was sitting for her first ever NEET exam, his daughter is yet to come out of the traumatic experience wherein she had to sit for the over 3-hour long exam without a brassiere.
The father, who has lodged a police complaint and intends to move the Human Rights Commission also, told a TV channel that his daughter was dressed as per the dress code mentioned in the NEET bulletin which does not say anything about innerwear.
Reacting to the incident, Kerala Higher Education Minister R Bindu on Monday said the test was not organised by a state-run agency and what happened indicated a grave lapse on the part of the organisers.
Such a conduct of the organisers towards the women and girl candidates without considering their human rights was unacceptable.
We will be conveying our disappointment regarding what happened to the Centre and the National Testing Agency (NTA) -- a central government agency which conducts entrance examinations for educational institutions -- the minister said.
Following the incident, on Monday, different parties held protest marches against the college in connection with the incident, police said.
A senior police officer of the district said that a team of women officers have gone to record the statement of the girl and based on what she has to say appropriate action, including lodging of a case, would be taken.
The officer also said that they were looking into the private agency which was given the responsibility of conducting the test.
The Kerala State Human Rights Commission, meanwhile, on Monday ordered an investigation into the incident.
The Commission directed the Kollam Rural Superintendent of Police to file a report within 15 days.
The complainant-father told the TV channel that on July 17 afternoon, after his daughter entered the exam centre, he and his wife were about to have their lunch in the car when they got a call from a number shown as 'information technology' asking them to come to the gate, he said.
"When we reached the gate, we saw our daughter in tears. She said that she and other girls were being asked to remove part of their inner wear and asked for a shawl to wear during the test.
"My wife gave her shawl to my daughter and she went back inside and we thought that was the end of it. However, after the exam got over, when our daughter came back, she was distressed and fell into my wife's arms crying. On the way home she told us what had transpired during the test. It was startling," the father said.
He said that according to his daughter, one of the invigilators, most of them were men, said that she can either remove her brassiere or she can write the exam.
"There were two rooms where undergarments of young women and girls were stacked on top of each other in violation of COVID-19 protocols. Those writing the exams are between the age groups of 17 to 23. Imagine how uncomfortable it would be for them to concentrate during the exam when surrounded by male students as well," the anguished father said.
When I heard what had happened, on the way home from the centre we went to the Kottarakkara Deputy SP office and lodged a complaint, the father said.
"I also spoke to the college which said it had no role in conducting the test and only provided the necessary infrastructure," he further said.
The college authorities told him that they were also looking into what had happened and that an outside agency based in Chadayamangalam here was responsible for conducting the exam, he said.
Subsequently, I also got a call from the Kollam SP who said that Chadayamangalam police were looking into the matter and how I want to proceed further.
"I told him that I am not doing it only for my daughter, but for all the other girls and women there. In future, no other parent should have to face such a situation again. I am ready to go to any extent for that.
"I will also move the Human Rights Commission as I feel that it is also a violation of human rights. This should never again happen in our country," he said.
He further said that his daughter, who is a brilliant student, was yet to recover from the experience and is sitting in a room without speaking to anyone.
"We expected her to get into one of the national level colleges, but she could not concentrate during the test because of what happened," he said.
He said that his elder daughter too had appeared for medical entrance exams in the past, but this was a first of its kind experience for them.