Make sure you look like your photo. Rishi Ayyer could not take CAT ‘because he and his photo did not match’

Pic: Flickr

Mumbai boy Rishi Ayyers blog http://atearintherain.wordpress.com has created quite a stir in the MBA-aspirant community. Written a few hours after attempting to take his Common Admission Test (CAT) exam at a centre near Mumbai (Sanpada) today, the blog has raised some vital issues regarding photo identification and exam procedures.

If you read Rishi’s blog, you will realise being debarred from taking CAT did not rankle him as much as the anomaly in the positions taken by different Prometric officials at the centre.

“It was just one of the officials who said that I did not look like the photo in my identity card but all the others said the opposite. I even got my PAN card scanned and sent across from home before the exam could start. Even this most of the officials were okay with except for this one person who had a problem from the beginning. It is this different attitude displayed that irked me,” Rishi told PaGaLGuY.

Rishi is a Chembur (Mumbai) resident and thats why chose to take the exam at a centre near Mumbai. This year, unlike previous years, all the CAT centres were in far-flung suburbs of Mumbai. Rishi studies at The Indian Institute of Technology, Rajasthan.

The identity that Rishi first supplied was his driving license. “When I was told I did not resemble my photo, I provided other identities like the medical insurance card and the college identity card. I know both are invalid according to CAT rules but since they both had my address and other particulars that matched my driving license, the rest of the officials thought I could take the exam except of course for this one person who always had a problem with me.”

According to the rules, in case of discrepancy, any three officials of a centre have to agree or disagree about valid identification. “The rules laid down are quite good and there were three officials who said that my identification was valid. This meant that I should have been allowed to take the exam,” added Rishi.

Prometric however, has on record that three officials did not agree with Rishi’s identity proof. This was the statement by Prometric. “In order to protect the integrity of the CAT programme, Prometric implements a strict identity validation process on behalf of the IIMs. Prior to the biometric check-in process which includes the capture of a candidate’s digital image and fingerprint, original and valid photo identification needs to be produced by every candidate. Candidates who do not produce valid identification are not allowed to test. We have checked our site reports and confirm that this candidate’s photo ID was not recognisable as verified by 3 members of the test centre staff.”

We spoke to CAT Convenor Prof SSS Kumar who said since he did not have all the details of the case, it would be wrong the make a comment outright. He was sure however that photo ids and wrong ids were a big reason why CAT takers have been debarred this year. “We have been stressing on correct and valid id from day one. And this year we have been very strict with any kind of lapse with regards to the ID.”

When told that Rishi was allowed entry by two officials and only debarred in the third, Prof Kumar said that the first two sets of officials which include the security guard will only look at the ID and may not match the photo. “The photo factor comes in when the biometric testing is done. That is when an official may have found something amiss.”

Apparently Rishi is not the only candidate debarred from taking the exam because of an identification problem. A few others were rejected too on the same ground. Not all cases made headlines, because no one really came out and spoke about it like Rishi did. A senior official in the CAT camp said that just because one blogs about it, it does not mean the system is wrong or incorrect. “Rules are the same for everybody,” added the official.

Even after all this, Rishi is still in praise of many of the officials at the centre. “Most were actually sweet to me and even told me that they would have pushed for another exam slot for me had today not been the second last day of the CAT season. They found that tomorrow the slots are full so there is no way that I could take the exam. Most of the officials also spoke to me well and felt sorry but frankly at the end of it I was too stressed with all that had happened. Not sure I could have given the exam after everything”

Rishi is leaving for Rajasthan tomorrow – much dejected. He is not sure whether he will take CAT next year.

But the issue of photo identity cards can be quite a bother in some cases. Especially since PAN cards as well as electoral cards are those which are almost never renewed in ones lifetime. Chances are that most people (those in their late 20s and onwards) are using PAN cards issued years ago which have photos which do not resemble what they look like today. Sometimes that may be the case with driving license too, especially for those who have still not graduated to the driving license card as opposed to the older booklet. For renewal, all that one needs to do is get the RTO to fill in fresh dates – the photo and the address remain unchanged for years together. So often people have faced resistence and uncomfortable questions at airports or visa/passport offices, where identification is of paramount importance.

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