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Explained: The NEET ‘dress code’ that can lead to ‘overzealous’ officials harassing women aspirants

NEET aspirants in Kerala were allegedly asked to remove their innerwear before entering the exam centre. The detailed — and also vague — guidelines on what examinees should or should not wear to the test are to blame.

A student outside an NEET UG examination centre, in Chennai, Sunday, July 17, 2022. (PTI Photo)

A row has erupted in Kerala over complaints that a number of female National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) aspirants were made to remove their innerwear before entering an examination centre on Sunday (July 17).

There have been similar complaints in the past as well — in 2017 for instance, four “overzealous” teachers of a school in Kerala were suspended for asking a girl to remove her innerwear before entering a NEET exam centre in Kannur.

Is there a dress code for NEET aspirants?

Yes, the NEET information brochure 2022 spells out a dress code. Candidates are not allowed to wear light clothes with long sleeves in examination halls. Slippers and sandals with low heels are permitted, but shoes are not.

What items are listed as prohibited?

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Apart from any form of textual material on paper, pencil boxes, plastic pouches, pens, calculators, scales, writing pads, pen drives, erasers, and log tables are not allowed inside the centres. Mobile phones, earphones, and health bands are barred, as are wallets, goggles, watches, bracelets, and cameras.

The NEET advisory specifically prohibits “any ornaments/ metallic items”. But the advisory does not clarify whether garments with metallic hooks are also prohibited.

Are candidates frisked?

According to the advisory, candidates will be subjected to extensive and compulsory frisking “with the help of highly sensitive metal detectors”, and barred items will not be allowed inside the examination centre “under any circumstances”.

Female candidates will be frisked inside a closed enclosure by female staff only.

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Are there similar guidelines for JEE (Mains), JEE (Advanced), and CUET-UG?

The guidelines are more or less identical. But for JEE (Mains) and CUET, there are no references to long sleeves and shoes. For JEE (Advanced), candidates are told not to wear “charm/taweez, items containing metals such as ring, bracelet, earrings, nose pin, chain/necklace, pendant, badge, brooch, clothes with big buttons”. They are told to wear open footwear like chappals and sandals.

Do these advisories on attire take into account specific religious or cultural practices?

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According to the advisories, candidates can come in cultural/ customary dress at the centres, but they are expected to report at least an hour ahead of the last reporting time so that there is “enough time for proper frisking without any inconvenience to the candidate while maintaining the sanctity of the examination”.

What action was taken in 2017 to prevent the recurrence of the issue?

CBSE, which used to conduct the NEET then, had said the incident was a “consequence of overzealousness” of the staff involved in frisking. No major changes were made to the guidelines even after the National Testing Agency (NTA) started conducting the examination — leaving the possibility of overzealous interpretations alive.

First published on: 18-07-2022 at 10:26:07 pm
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