Published: 20th July 2022
NEET frisking row in Kerala: Five arrested plus, NTA constitutes fact-finding committee
"We have taken five people into custody. Now they are being interrogated," said Thiruvananthapuram Range DIG R Nishitani
A day after the humiliating incident where girl students who appeared to attempt NEET were forced to remove innerwear at an exam centre in Ayur came to light, the Chadayamangalam Police arrested five people including two employees of the Mar Thoma Institute of Information and Technology where the examination was held.
The other three are female employees of Star Training Academy, the private agency that conducted the exam. On Tuesday, July 19, the college witnessed major protests by student organisations. On the same day four more girls came forward and filed similar complaints before the police.
Meanwhile, the National Testing Agency (NTA) constituted a fact-finding committee to look into the incident. The arrested are employees of the college, S Mariyamma and K Mariyamma, in addition to employees of Star Training Academy: Geethu, Jyotsna Joby and Beena. They were charged with IPC sections 354 (Assault or Criminal Force to a woman with intent to outrage her modesty) and 509 (Word, gesture, or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman).
"We have taken five people into custody. Now they are being interrogated," said Thiruvananthapuram range DIG R Nishitani.
Looking into the matter
On Tuesday, the cyber police inspected the college and seized the CCTV footage. "It has been confirmed that on the examination day, some women conducted frisking of the aspirants. We have received complaints from four more aspirants, totalling five complaints so far. A full-scale investigation is going on," said GD Vijayakumar, Dy SP Kottarakkara.
The NTA, which is responsible for conducting the NEET exam, had given the contract for conducting the exam to a private agency in Thiruvananthapuram, which has entrusted another agency in Karunagappally, that deployed 10 untrained personnel for the job. According to the police, this personnel were involved in frisking the aspirants.
Taking strong exception to the incident, NK Premachandran MP met the Union Education Minister and Minister of State V Muraleedharan to take up the matter. "We have sought a high-level investigation by central agencies into the incident. Also, I have demanded that the NEET guidelines should be revised. However, the minister turned down my request and said it was an isolated incident. The Union Minister said it was part of a conspiracy by anti-national elements to destroy the reputation of the NEET exam. He said the police investigation seems enough," said Premachandran.
The State Human Rights Commission, Women's Commission and the Juvenile Justice Board took up the case suo moto.
One NEET aspirant who underwent the horrifying incident recalled that, "It was a painful experience for us. We were forced to remove our innerwear in a hall and when I asked them how can we go outside and write the exam in such a condition, one woman volunteer told me that this is how every aspirant goes through during NEET exam," she said.
Major protests at college
The Mar Thoma College witnessed major protests on Tuesday, July 19. Around noon the student organisations took out a protest march which led to an open tussle with the police. Many people including journalists, policemen and protesters were injured.
Congress has declared a state-wide protest today, July 20 against the police action.
NTA constitutes a fact-finding committee
The NTA constituted a committee following a directive from the union government. "It has been brought to the notice of the Ministry of Education through various media reports that an incident allegedly happened in one of the Centres of NEET(UG)- 2022 near Kollam district in Kerala," the ministry said.
Accordingly, a fact-finding committee has been constituted by the NTA to ascertain the facts in detail. action will be taken based on the report of the fact-finding committee which will visit Kollam, a senior MoE official said.