Pune: Several girls taking the Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) examination on Saturday alleged that the staffers of MIT Vishwashanti Gurukul Higher Secondary School in Loni-Kalbhor strip-searched them on the pretext of preventing them from carrying chits.
“I was menstruating on the day of our first HSC examination paper on February 21. Two lady staffers asked me to remove my inner wear to check for chits. Despite my protests, I was forced to do so. I feel humiliated,” said a 17-year-old complainant. The girl students who came forward to complain against the MIT management claimed that they were in trauma after the incident. “We remained quiet because we were scared and humiliated. They used to take us to a room and ask us to remove our overcoat and then one of the staff members would push her hand inside our shirt and inner wear to check for chits. How can we write the examination after undergoing something as violating as this?” asked a student.
Swati Karad, director, MIT Group of Institutions, said, “We haven’t searched any student inappropriately. We frisk as instructed by the HSC board officials. We have not asked any student to take off their clothes. This is an attempt to malign the institute,” said Karad. Other management members also alleged that students and parents were furious because the college did not allow students to cheat. “We never allowed MIT to be a centre. But this year, the board insisted on having us because there were cases of mass cheating in the previous centre. Parents are clearly enraged that we don’t allow cheating,” said the member. The chief conductor of examination in the centre, college principal Virendra Bawaskar, showed TOI a sack filled with chits allegedly confiscated from students. “We did not report it to the board because we did not want students to suffer. Maybe, that was our mistake,” said another member.
The investigating officer, Mahesh Dhawan of the Loni-Kalbhor police, said, “An FIR has been lodged against the two women staffers who allegedly strip-searched the complainant girl under IPC Section 304 (Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty) and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (sections 8 and 10). We are checking the statements of her four friends and other girls who appeared for the examination.”
Dhawan said the Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education, Pune division, had been asked to furnish details on what forms of checking were allowed during board exams and what other norms should be followed while checking when there was a suspicion of copying.
A policeman, on condition of anonymity, said the two staffers were being made a scapegoat. “The women named in the FIR are just security staff at the college. They would do whatever the management asks them to do,” he said. While the demand of changing the centre is rife, T N Supe, divisional chairman of the Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education, has denied chances of it happening. “It is true the centre was shifted to MIT because the previous centre had a problem of mass copying. But students cannot be touched inappropriately. We will conduct our own inquiry.”
Sudhakar Pakhare, the deputy education officer sent to the college, said, “Both the staffers and the management have given an undertaking saying that they frisked the children but never asked them to take off their clothes.”