It was the first of times, it was the worst of times; but mostly, worst.
No Internet to Entertain
It was the morning of August 5, 2018; a Sunday morning when approximately 6 lac candidates were flocking to different parts of Rajasthan, looking for their centres, without a Google Map, or a cab. Not surprisingly enough, most of these candidates were not localites. They had absolutely no clue about the districts to which their centre belonged. Thanks to the 6 AM surprise of Rajasthan state suspending the internet connection, candidates were mostly stranded.
Exam Conducting authority’s punctuality and the frisking that followed
Like flock of sheep, students meandered to different parts of the state, early in the morning. Candidates had been told to report at 8 AM to their respective exam centres. However, across many centres, it was only after 9.15 AM that the process of security check actually started taking place.
Apparently, police personnel at my centre were instructed to lift our shirts and look for other unfair means that may have been strapped to our chests.
Uncomfortable as it was, I finally gathered the nerve to ask the two wonderful guys (policemen) at the security check if there was any scope of privacy when it came to lifting my shirt and scanning my chest. Baffled with the question, he pretended to ignore what I had just spoken and continued lifting my shirt. Upon a second nudge, he reminded me that he was doing his job, as he was instructed to, and that I should do mine. Being the inquisitive chap I am, I asked the same question a third time, only to be told to shoo away.
A little taken aback, this incidence had me believe that men are probably not entitled to any dignity when it comes to their bodies. It’s almost as if men should be okay with their nudity and anyone has the right to go about feeling our bodies up, and that we should be okay with it. It becomes all the more shocking when this is something that men in uniform have been instructed to do; because it clearly reflects the dismissive and uninterested nature of the State in making provisions to ensure the dignity of a male candidate.
It wasn’t just the men who had to bore the brunt
Upon further observation, it hit me that the State was completely uninterested in ensuring anyone’s dignity, irrespective of their gender. At my centre, the preliminary checks for women candidates had no female police officer. A friend at another centre, barely 6 kilometres from mine told me how a girl at her examination centre was asked to cut off the buttons in her suit because they could be possible ways to cheat.
“But I am from another city, where should I keep my phone?”
“Not our responsibility!”
Later, analysing the school premises, I found out that no arrangements had been made to keep bags and helmets of students. When I asked the guard about it, a policeman interrupted to tell me that it wasn’t their responsibility. So basically, the commission expected people to show up without their mobiles, or wallets, or bags, or helmets, in a State which had no internet access to start with; even the non-locals.
Some people had to go through even more trouble
Another anomaly that made me sit up and think was the lack of provisions which were made for candidates with special needs. Visually impaired candidates were asked to report two working days ahead of the examination, when the admit cards were released exactly four working days ahead of the exam.
I get that special arrangements need to be made for these candidates, but I genuinely believe that the process could have been made easier by making this information available to them much earlier than it was.
Travelling on the roof and side-rest of trains is a punishable offence
It is also interesting to note that the admit card on it’s very first page held a warning to the candidates about how travelling on top of the trains is a punishable offence.
So, in a way, the commission knew that it wouldn’t be easy for candidates to commute to the exam locations. And somehow, they still made it all the more tough for people with special needs to make arrangements for the same in a time period shorter than what was available to everyone else.
Untrained Invigilators and Policemen
Since everything was happening on such short notices, the confusion among invigilators and improper training was clearly visible. My friend told me about how their attendance sheets were collected before they were even signed, and despite her repeated requests, nobody bothered to look into the matter. She told me how she told the invigilator to ask his superior to atleast discuss this matter, and how she was snubbed off and told to wait. She finally had to ask the Flying Squad team about the matter. If it weren’t for her, the whole class would have probably been marked absent.
When the initial shirt-lifting incidence happened, I was more than just taken aback. I am not someone who is against the idea of a proper system of checks, but I think that if you’re going to do something like this, you may as well make provisions for it. It’s not OK to do this in the open. A small closed space, or a class-room could have saved the mental trouble that a number of boys like me had to go through, right before the exam.
Further, the attitude of the policemen was outright rude. The idea that I was not comfortable with my body being subjected to the display of many was repulsive for them. Had my question been answered with a little more humility and not been completely brushed off, I would have still tried to make my peace with it. At the end of the day, we are all just human beings, trying to get by. And we may as well do it with kindness.
I didn’t write this as a complaint letter or something to invite agony from everywhere. I am writing this with a hope that situations like these stop happening. I am writing this for the boy who is about to appear for his first Rajasthan Public Service Commission exam, and aspires to serve the State. Serving the nation includes serving it’s people. And there’s only one way to treat people : as humanely as possible.