For the past two years, the Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research has been insisting that all students that take their entrance examination record their biometric data (fingerprints) and in case the candidate is selected for the interview, their data will be compared to the original.

The move, according to JIPMER officials, is a way to prevent people from writing exams in proxy and to ensure that only deserving candidates get a seat in the college.

So far, however, the move has had a number of glitches. In the first year, several students were forced to enter their data several times before it was recognised by the system and this year, close to 300 students were forced to give a manual fingerprint and handwriting sample, which meant that they wasted an extra few minutes just to give their fingerprints and subsequently wipe off the ink from their fingers and continue writing the exam.

According to one of the students, Sundar, who attempted the examination this year, the entire exercise of collecting this biometric data wasted several minutes that could easily be used to answer a few more questions. It was possible to collect this data before the exam started, but the authorities insisted on collecting it during the examination.

He finally did not make it through to the interview. “Maybe it is unfair to blame the collection of biometric data, but by the time I had wiped the ink from my finger and given the handwriting sample, I found it hard to concentrate on the examination. As it is, the exam is tough and additional distractions make it impossible to concentrate,” he said.

One student who got through the entrance exam last year said that she was forced to register her fingerprint two or three times before it was accepted by the system.

“Apparently because my palms were sweaty from the stress of writing the exam, the machine wasn’t able to register a fingerprint. Every time I tried putting my finger in, there would be a loud beep and this distracted everyone around me. By the time my prints were accepted, I could feel the glares of the others writing the exam. I was lucky to get in, but I have a feeling that several others blame me for not being able to get in last year,” the student said.

Although in Puducherry around 300 to 400 students were affected by the glitch in the biometric system this year, in Thiruvananthapuram there were a larger number that were affected. This was the only city in Kerala where the examination was held, so candidates from across the state travelled to the city to write the JIPMER entrance test.

JIPMER relies on a private company – MeritTrac – for the conduct of its examinations. This company deals with all the non-confidential aspects of the examination including the fixing of venues and the collection of biometric data. The cost of conducting the examination is close to Rs. 1 crore each year, the official said.