In an extreme attempt to prevent cheating during a written exam, Indian Army in the state of Bihar has asked over 1,000 applicants to strip to their underwear and take the test outdoors.
Images published by Indian media show the naked men in an open field trying to complete the test by holding the sheets of paper on their thighs or on the ground, under the watchful eyes of uniformed supervisors. “We were frisked and then ushered into an enclosure. Then the army officers asked us to remove all clothes except our underwear,” said 21-year-old Harishambhu Kumar. “I felt awkward, but the army people told us it was to check cheating, so I got used to it.”
The bizarre army recruitment exam took place on February 28 and has drawn criticism from the state’s high court, which has sought an explanation from India’s Ministry of Defense after a lawyer filed a petition against the army. “The decision to ask candidates to appear for the exams without a shirt, trouser or vest is simply bizarre,” lawyer Dinu Kumar said. “Those who showed reluctance to remove their clothes were asked to leave. It was insulting.”
Officers responsible for the outrageous requirement don’t seem to remorseful, though. Colonel V.S. Godhra, director of the Army Regional Office in Muzaffarpur, said the over 1,000 candidates were asked to strip to their underwear and sit in an open field to prevent them from hiding any cheat sheets in their clothes or under the desks and chairs. “I am entitled to take all precautions necessary. In the past year, there have been two instances of candidates hiding cheating slips and mobile phones in their vests and undergarments,” he was quoted as saying, by the Press Trust of India. “We did not insult anybody or subjected anyone to cruelty. No examinee complained, so why outsiders are making a hue and cry over the matter.”
To be fair, though, Bihar is famous for having a serious cheating problem during important exams. Last year, local police arrested around 1,000 aspiring officers who admitted to having paid other individuals to take the exams in their place. And let’s not forget the local practice of scaling school walls to offer friends and relatives cheat sheets during year-end exams.
I’m not saying that this justifies the local officers’ decisions. However, they probably felt that drastic measures were required to prevent cheating.