After that defining freezeframe from Vaishali last year of people perched on the window shades of a multi-storey building, passing on answer chits to students appearing for exams inside, comes another image from Bihar showing the other side of the coin.
This one, from Sunday, shows over 1,150 candidates, dressed only in their underwear, sitting cross-legged on an open ground in Muzaffarpur, putting pen to paper in the hope of making it to the Army. They said they were ordered to do so by supervisors to ensure they don’t cheat in the recruitment exam for soldiers on general duty and in the clerical and technical categories.
Sources at the Army Regional Office (ARO) said the candidates were asked to remove their clothes to “save time on frisking so many people”.
When contacted by The Indian Express, Col V S Godhara, director, ARO, said, “We conduct thorough frisking and ensure that candidates carry minimum external things to the exam centre.”
But photos from the venue, accessed by The Indian Express, and interviews with candidates who appeared for the exams in their underwear suggest that the supervisors went a few steps further.
“As we entered Chakkar Maidan, the venue, we were asked to remove all clothes except underwear. We had no option but to comply with the instructions even though it felt odd. The gap between candidates was about eight feet in all directions,” said a candidate, who did not wish to be identified.
“We do not expect to appear for such largescale examinations in halls, but telling us to remove our clothes was not dignified,” said another candidate.
Officials confirmed that 1,159 candidates appeared for the written test on Sunday, including 775 candidates in the general duty category, 211 candidates in clerical and 173 candidates in technical.
They said that the written test lasted an hour, adding that the medical and physical tests were conducted between February 4 and 12.
Asked about photos that show uniformed personnel supervising candidates writing the test in their underwear, Col Godhara said, “I have seen one photo (from the exam centre) but that is too vague.”
Asked if the arrangement was specific to Bihar, Col Godhara said, “Nothing is state-specific”.
While local residents said that this was the second time that the Army recruitment test was being conducted in this manner, a senior officer described the procedure as an “administrative lapse”.
Speaking to The Indian Express on the condition of anonymity, the Army officer said, “There is no question of the Army conducting a written test in this manner. It is only during physical tests and medical exams that candidates are asked to remove their clothes. The written test is a test of the mental faculty anyway, and making candidates appear for that in their underwear amounts to an administrative lapse”.