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Come September and India’s public exam system is leaking like a sieve

From the IIT entrance exam to NEET, from mid-term school papers in Punjab to sub-inspector recruitment in Haryana, nothing is off-limits anymore

September 19, 2021 / 12:45 PM IST
Rampant paper leaks and impersonation have put a question mark on India’s exam system.

Rampant paper leaks and impersonation have put a question mark on India’s exam system.

India’s public examination system is facing its gravest crisis yet. From marquee examinations like IIT entrance tests and pre-medical entrance NEET to mid-term school papers in Punjab to constables’ recruitment in Haryana, the rot seems to have reached a point of no-return.

In September, a series of examination paper leaks rocked the country, with the crucial National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) topping the list of infamy.

The Rajasthan Police lodged a series of cases this week when a NEET paper was allegedly leaked in the state capital Jaipur. Eight people, including three students, were arrested in the city for cutting a Rs 35-lakh deal to obtain the question paper.

The accused include the administrator of the Rajasthan Institute of Engineering and Technology and two owners of coaching academies.

Munna Bhai M.B.B.S redux

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The entrance test for undergraduate medical aspirants was conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA) on September 12 after it was put off multiple times due to coronavirus outbreak and student protests against the exam date, which were dismissed by the Supreme Court.

NEET 2021 is eerily reminiscent of Bollywood film Munna Bhai M.B.B.S, where weak students from rich families pay big sums to senior medical students for sitting the exam on their behalf.

Investigators say one of the toppers of the 2010 medical entrance exam in Rajasthan has been running the racket in the state. Students allegedly paid between Rs 20 to 25 lakh to get their papers written. The Jaipur police said the same gang was responsible for the paper leak.

Aspirants have now launched a petition on change.org, demanding a re-exam, alleging injustice to those who attempted the exam fairly.

The petition, started by one Veronika Park, says, "NEET 2021 exam has not only been leaked in Rajasthan. It was found that it's been leaked in many other states. It's not fair for the students who have genuinely attempted the paper and have practiced throughout the year for the same. So, we demand re-examination, so that it is fair for students who are genuine," said the petition, addressed to the NTA, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, education minister Dharmendra Pradhan and the CBSE, which used to conduct NEET earlier.

September has been the month when the country’s public examination system has leaked like a sieve. Sample the following:

***Question papers for the Punjab State Education Board’s mid-term examination for Classes 6-12 began leaking from September 6, even though the education department was aware of it and promised to check the blatant fudging.

While Capt Amarinder Singh, who quit as the Punjab chief minister on September 18, had ordered a probe, Sukhdarshan Singh, the whistle-blower, told media that the “the social studies question paper of Class 10 was leaked on YouTube”.

*** On September 3, the CBI searched 19 locations in connection with the alleged manipulation of the 2021 JEE (Mains) examinations by a private institute, Affinity Education Pvt Ltd. The prestigious JEE (Mains) examination decides admissions to the country’s top engineering schools IITs and NITs.

***On September 14, the Haryana Police arrested two persons in connection with the state constable recruitment exam leak case, taking the tally of arrested to 39. The police had promised Rs 50,000 each for the information leading to the arrest of the two men and a few others.

*** On September 13, the Rajasthan Police took into custody 18 persons for allegedly leaking the state’s sub-inspector recruitment examination question paper. Some were arrested for appearing as dummy candidates—writing the exam for others—or providing answers to the candidates. In one instance, the police found a Bluetooth device with an earphone concealed in a wig that was connected to someone’s phone.

*** On September 9, the Varanasi field unit of the Special Task Force arrested Ganesh Prasad, an accused in the LT Grade-2018 (teachers) leak episode, from West Bengal. The STF had unearthed the racket in May 2019 following the arrest of UP Public Service Commission’s examination controller Anjulata Katiyar and the owner of a printing press that was publishing the papers. Prasad told the police he had struck a “deal” with aspirants for Rs 11 lakh each.

Eminent educationist and former NCERT director JS Rajput told Moneycontrol, “Education represents all that is wrong with the system. When I became professor in 1974, it was rare for such leaks to take place. Today, it is rampant. Education mafia is dominant, recruitment of teachers is lax, there are millions of vacancies where ad hoc appointments are made. Ethical norms have declined, and education is no exception.”

India, which takes pride in its competitive examination system that sends more students abroad for higher studies than most countries, needs to get a fix over the situation and fast.
Ranjit Bhushan is an independent journalist and former Nehru Fellow at Jamia Millia University. In a career spanning more than three decades, he has worked with Outlook, The Times of India, The Indian Express, the Press Trust of India, Associated Press, Financial Chronicle, and DNA.
first published: Sep 19, 2021 12:44 pm

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