NEET 2022: While three women worked for an agency hired by the NTA, two worked for the private educational institution at Ayur in Kollam.

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On Tuesday, five women were detained in Kerala for allegedly coercing female students who were taking the NEET exam to take off their underwear. The National Testing Agency (NTA) has since formed a fact-finding committee to investigate the alleged event. A police officer informed PTI that the police investigation team questioned the five women before making their arrests.

Two of the women who were employed at the private educational facility at Ayur in Kollam where the incident took place were among the three who worked for the NTA-hired agency. The state police had previously opened an investigation after receiving a complaint from a girl who claimed she was made to take her bra off in order to do the eligibility test. After the Kerala government raised the problem with the Centre in an effort to get serious action taken, the NTA, which administers the test, established the panel.

Protests that started on July 18 led to the arrest. On Tuesday, these protests in Kerala’s southern Kollam area grew more violent. Action is being demanded on NEET frisking staff who are accused of pressuring female students to take down their undergarments. According to reports, the innerwear’s metallic hook offended the staff. The Union Ministry of Education (MoE), noting the accusation, stated that it has come to their attention through a number of media reports that an event may have occurred in one of Kerala’s NEET (UG)-2022 centres. The NTA has consequently formed a fact-finding committee to thoroughly investigate the facts, according to the Ministry.

Based on complaints it received, the Kerala Women’s Commission, for its part, also filed a case. The girl students were allegedly asked to take off their undergarments by a company that NTA had contracted in Kollam for several tasks, including performing frisking. A girl who was 17 years old filed the complaint. Similar claims have been made by a number of other female students, but they haven’t all made separate police reports. In a letter to Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, Kerala Higher Education Minister R Bindu expressed his “dismay and outrage” over the “naked assault on the integrity and honour of the lady students.” Bindu asked the Union Minister to get involved in the situation in order to take steps to stop similar incidents from happening again.

The educational facility in Ayur was vandalised by a group of protestors who staged protest marches after the complaint girl was allegedly told to take off her underwear before taking the test. According to reports, student activists broke through the police barrier to infiltrate the college grounds, causing destruction. Police intervention resulted in the injury of some student activists. A senior NTA official, however, said: “No complaint or representation has been received by us. The centre superintendent and observer were asked for an immediate report based on assertions made in media stories. They have stated that no such incident occurred and that the report was falsely made with malicious intent.”

The educational facility in Ayur, where the complaining girl is said to have been asked to remove her underwear before taking the test, was vandalised by a group of protestors who organised protest marches. A police cordon was allegedly broken by student activists who then entered the college property and vandalised it. In the course of the police action, some student activists were hurt. However, a senior NTA official stated: “We have not yet received a complaint or a representation. A prompt report was requested from the centre superintendent and observer based on assertions made in media reporting. They have stated that no such incident occurred and the report is false and was submitted with bad intentions.” The chairperson of the commission also asked the NTA, to take action against those responsible for the incident.

Mayank Tewari

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