NEW DELHI: Union minister Maneka Gandhi has asked the HRD ministry to look into a complaint by a woman who was asked to remove all her jewellery -- including a toe ring that symbolised her marital status -- before she was allowed to sit for an examination for government jobs.
In a letter to Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi, Delhi resident Rita Verma said she was made to remove her toe ring, worn by married women, bangles and even her 'bindi' before she could appear for the Delhi Subordinate Services Selection Board examination here on June 25.
"Officers there asked me to break my bangles if required if I wanted to enter the school premises," she wrote.
She was forced to keep all her 'suhaag' (marital) items outside the school where the examination was being held, she wrote in her June 27 letter, a copy of which is with PTI.
Gandhi, outraged at what she said was a "bizarre case", has now shot off a letter to Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar, asking him to draw up "standard operating procedures" to deal with such cases.
"Before the school board exams were conducted this year, apparently very strict instructions were issued regarding prevention of cheating during the exams. A large number of students were put to harassment which included body search and stripping in certain incidents," Gandhi said in her letter, also dated June 27.
Though she agreed that some students used high-tech gadgets to cheat, "the anti-cheating protocols deployed should not result in harassment", Gandhi contended.
In May this year, a woman who had appeared for the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test for admission to medical courses was asked to remove her bra by the frisking staff at an examination centre in Kovappuram in Kerala before being allowed to sit for the test.
In another case in March, officials allegedly stripsearched women students appearing for a matriculation examination at a school in Patna.
Maneka went on to recount Verma's woes in her letter to the HRD minister, saying that the candidate found her jewellery missing after the exam.
When her officials contacted the school authorities, they said metallic objects were not allowed inside the examination hall, which was why the candidate was asked to remove her jewellery.
"It is the responsibility of the school to ensure that they do not put the students/candidates to any harassment on account of their own interpretation of the instructions issued to prevent cheating," she said in her letter.
"Therefore I request you to have suitable instructions issued to the schools which are used as centres for examinations to have standard operating procedures to prevent such cases," she added.
For Verma, the harassment continued after she returned home, with her in-laws blaming her for the episode.
"They (the in-laws) put the blame on me and my parent also had to listen to their harsh words. My in-laws said that I should have chosen not to remove the items and not entered the examination centre because all the (jewellery) was part of our Hindu culture...Please tell me what I should do, and what I did wrong," Verma asked Gandhi.