The Subtle Art of Snatching A Seat: Educational Scams in India

The Subtle Art of Snatching A Seat: Educational Scams in India

Scams, something that makes every citizen of the country avert at the mention of leaders and governments, make the representatives of the republic reek. Every time you turn around, there’s a new scam, be it the stock market or the educational sector. But the situation becomes murkier when these seep through the crevices of establishment into our education system. When thousands of hopes are being thwarted, is it fair to those thousands of aspirants who have spent countless nights sleepless in preparation for the D Day?

These scams lead us to a world where the more money you’ll have, the better opportunities will be accessible to you. Team MM jotted down some major Exam Scandals that happened in our country.

Vyapam Scandal:

As per its official site, the MPPEB (Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board), commonly known by its Hindi abbreviation, “Vyapam” (Vyavsayik Pariksha Mandal), claims to be “the only institute of its kind in the country that organizes competitive tests for admission to various professional courses every year on a huge scale.” Besides common entrance tests (CETs) for professional courses such as medicine and engineering, Vyapam leads enlistment assessments for various state-level posts which are not filled through the Public Service Commission. These include posts like Sub Inspectors of Police, rural augmentation officials in the branch of agriculture, training officers in the directorate of employment and training, among others.

The scam involves a wide range of malpractices in the examinations conducted by Vyapam, including bribery of officials, forgery of answer sheets, impersonation of candidates, etc. It also included an “engine-bogie” system wherein seating arrangements were manipulated so that a paid, more brilliant student was seated between two others to allow the latter to copy answers from the former.  According to reports, the scam took place between 2008 and 2013. 

While there were allegations of malpractices in the examination and recruitment process well before the scam came to light, the magnitude and the extent of the muck within the MPPEB was exposed in 2009, when an Indore-based doctor and activist, Dr Anand Rai, filed public interest litigation (PIL) in the Madhya Pradesh high court. The PIL led to chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan setting up an inquiry committee, which submitted its report in 2011. Two years later, in 2013, whistleblower Rai made startling revelations that said many candidates had procured admission to medical colleges in the state through fraudulent practices, including impersonation and bribery. The investigation was then handed over to a Special Task Force (STF). Since then, over 2000 people, including students, intermediaries, people in business, public officials, and politicians, have been arrested for their role in the scam.

The most high-profile arrest includes former MP education minister Lakshmikant Sharma, accused of fraud in the contract teachers’ recruitment test. Sharma’s associates, including his former officer on special duty (OSD) O.P. Shukla and personal assistant Sudhir Sharma, have also been arrested. In February, former MP governor Ram Naresh Yadav was asked to resign by the home ministry after an FIR was filed against him, alleging irregularities (accepting bribes from candidates) in recruiting forest guards. His former OSD, Dhanraj Yadav, has also been accused of recruiting candidates through his links with Vyapam officials.

The arrests also include R.K. Shivhare, an IPS officer (now suspended), for his alleged involvement in the sub-inspectors recruitment tests. According to a report in IBN Live,

“Shivhare was accused of getting his daughter Neha and her husband Ajay Anand admitted in Pre-PG 2012 (conducted by Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board—MPPEB) courses fraudulently, following which they secured fifth and seventh positions in the merit list.”

Nearly 50 people had died since 2009 when the Vyapam scam was first unearthed. With more facts coming to light, deaths became murkier. Almost half of the dead were killed under mysterious circumstances like road mishaps and disappearances. In 2015 alone, eight people have died, with four in the last one week. Narendra Singh Tomar, an accused, died on June 28, following a heart attack in Indore Jail. Tomar’s death was followed by accused Rajan Arya, who was out on bail when he died due to a liver infection. The most high-profile casualty included Akshay Singh, an Aaj Tak journalist who suffered a heart attack while interviewing the Vyapam scam victim’s father. Arun Kumar, the dean of the NS Medical College in Jabalpur, was found dead at a Delhi hotel where he was staying en route to Agartala for a conference.

The scam has seen many activists coming out and exposing the rot within MPPEB. Besides Dr Anand Rai, whistleblowers included Ashish Chaturvedi, a social activist from Gwalior, and Prashant Pandey, a former IT consultant hired by the STF. All of them have complained of police harassment and constant threats to their lives for their role in exposing the scam. This shows how low the state’s government has stooped to get it all hushed.

It could have been just another scandal, but let’s examine the repercussions and something normal middle-class parents do not yet understand. When such seats are rigged in a professional exam, their kid was preparing hard but could not make it to the cutoff, the eventual victim. Some even committed suicide, and some had to settle for other non-rewarding careers.

Secondly, for a person who paid huge sums of money, as high as 1cr, their first goal after entering the profession is to gain his investment back. After all, why would one be willing to pay such hefty sums for a career if he did not think he could get it all about? This leads to further scams in the Medical industry.

SSC-CGL -2017:

For conducting the SSC-CGL (Staff Selection Commission - Combined Graduate Level Examination) examination, the SSC had executed an agreement with the Noida-based private technology company for outsourcing. It was alleged that questions from the paper went viral on social media in a paper leak case.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed a charge sheet against three arrested individuals in connection with the 2017 Staff Selection Commission (SSC) paper leak case.

What charges were the individuals arrested on?

"The CBI had on May 22, 2018, registered a Regular Case (RC) against certain private persons including candidates, officials of the Noida (Uttar Pradesh)-based private technology company and unknown officials of the SSC and other unknown persons on the allegations of criminal conspiracy, criminal misconduct by the public servants and cheating by personation by using computer resources about the conduct of online CGL Tier-II Examination, 2017,"

The charges mentioned were 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 420 (cheating) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), section 13(2) read with 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 and section 66D of the Information Technology Act.

What went wrong?

According to the agreement, the private company was entrusted to conduct the computer-mode examination. It was also responsible for identifying and preparing test centres across India, preparing an adequate number of questions for making sets of the question paper, capturing biometric and photograph of candidate’s registration, CCTV recording of each examination lab, etc. The company was also responsible for blocking the candidates’ computers from accessing all possible web resources for browsing, chatting, etc.

It was further alleged that the computers of some candidates were remotely accessed by unknown persons with the help of software that was not supposed to be installed in the computers of the candidates. These candidates were allegedly helped by unknown persons, i.e., the agents, in solving questions.

It was also alleged that screenshots of some of the CGL Tier-II Exam, 2017, were leaked on social media and had gone viral. The CBI had earlier conducted Preliminary Enquiry (PE) on a complaint from the Staff Selection Commission, New Delhi, on the allegations of malpractices in the recruitment examinations. Was it recklessness of the company or the sheer temptation of man for money is yet to be told.

NEET 2021:

National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) 2021, the Undergraduate Medical entrance exam, has been controversial this year. Even before the exam took place, reports claimed the exam paper had been leaked. Student organizations like the All India Students’ Federation (AISF) and the National Students Union of India (NSUI) led the social media campaigns.

On Sunday, September 12, police in Jaipur, Rajasthan, arrested a girl for cheating in the NEET exam with seven others who helped her. The accused, Dineshwari Kumari, her uncle, exam invigilator Ram Singh, in charge of the exam centre’s administration unit, Mukesh (an accused), and four others were also nabbed in connection with the case DCP Richa Tomar said.

After the exam started, Ram Singh and Mukesh sent the photos of the exam paper to two men sitting in an apartment in Jaipur’s Chitrakoot area, who then forwarded it to some other people in Sikar, the girl said.

"The men (in Sikar) forwarded the answer key to the two men in Chitrakoot, who then forwarded it to Mukesh. Mukesh then forwarded it to Singh. Singh helped Dineshwari solve the paper with the help of the answer key,"

In Uttar Pradesh, the Tribune has reported that a King George’s Medical University (KGMU) student, Varanasi, and another person have been arrested for involvement in the NEET scam.

 Varanasi Commissioner of Police A Satish Ganesh told The Tribune.

"This gang used to take contracts to send impersonators to appear in the entrance exam. In case a candidate qualified in the exam, the gang charged anything from Rs 30 lakh to Rs 40 lakh from the candidate. Police have recovered copies of 15 admit cards, four photos of aspirants, four receipts of couriers, two mobile phones containing chatting of gang members, details of money transaction and other items,"

Earlier, the report said the police had arrested a BDS student and her mother in this connection.

JEE:

JEE Mains exam is conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA), which aims to take exams transparently. Every year, over 10 lakh candidates appear for JEE Mains, which is a gateway to IIT entrance - JEE Advanced. The NTA concluded the fourth and final session of JEE Main 2021 on September 2, 2021.

The examination result came with the announcement that 20 candidates had been debarred from taking exams for cheating. Two directors of a Noida-based private institution and five others have been arrested for the alleged manipulation of JEE Main examination 2021. The CBI booked Affinity Education Pvt Ltd and its directors for manipulating the online JEE (Mains) exam and facilitating aspiring students to get admission in top NITs in consideration of massive amount by solving the question paper of the applicant through remote access from a chosen examination centre in Sonepat (Haryana). The arrested staff members at the Sonepat centre have allegedly aided the hacking instead of money; Rs 12- Rs 15 lakh were paid by each candidate who succeeded in the exams and got a seat at the National Institutes of Technology. 

The candidates who showed a sudden jump from 50 percentile in one phase to over 90 percentile in the other were under the scanner. They realized the NTA was looking into over 400 candidates from 23 JEE exam centres for possible malpractice. Ever since the news, students have been demanding justice and re-examination. The students believe the government of India and the CBI that strict action would be taken for these activities, so they don’t repeat them shortly. The back door entry in top colleges of India is a shame for this country, and the government, so strict rules are emerging every year in JEE and other entrances.  

While the JEE exam scam, the CBI came across ‘hawala’ transactions and detained seven people who allegedly tried to bring down the ongoing JEE main examination. The CBI also stated that some private institutions were involved in the scam; they had their touts, associates, and staff posted at the JEE examination centres. It has been found that at least one of the conspirators is from Bihar. Over 20 laptops, seven computers, around 30 post-dated cheques, along with voluminous incriminating documents and devices, including PDC’s mark sheet of different students, were recovered during the raids.

The term ‘Professional proxy candidate’ was coined for Pradip Kumar, who had written the JEE Mains 2020 for Neel Nakshatra Das, who had secured 99.8 percent marks and became one of the toppers all India engineering entrance test. On November 1, a coaching center owner Bhargav Deka was arrested being a prime accused in the JEE mains impersonation case. On October 28, Guwahati police commissioner Munna Prasad Gupta said the accused candidate, his doctor father, and three other co-conspirators were arrested and approached the National Testing Agency (NTA). A complaint was lodged on October 23, claiming that a candidate for the JEE mains used a proxy candidate to appear for the test on his behalf. Kumar told investigators that Bhargav Deka, owner of Global Elite, had taken Rs 20 lakh from Neel’s father, Dr. Jyotirmoy Das. On November 1, Azara Police arrested Bhargav Deka, one of the prime accused related to using proxy candidates in the JEE Mains. 

CBSE Paper Leak:

In 2018 the protesting class 10 and 12 students alleged that the leaked question papers of Maths and Economics were being sold outside a Delhi school for Rs 8,000 to Rs 16,000. People were offering question papers for Rs 16,000 if you wanted it a night before and for Rs 3,000 if you liked it on the morning of the examination day. Not just on social media, people were seen selling the question paper outside a school at Kailash Nagar (Gandhi Nagar) for Rs 8,000. The students also claimed that the question papers of other subjects were also leaked and were being distributed in exchange for money.

A student of KIIT World School in Pitampura claimed that the question papers of Biology and Chemistry were also leaked. The Delhi Police registered two separate complaints and set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to investigate the CBSE paper leak of class 10 Maths and class 12 Economics question papers. 

Bihar Board Examinations:

Bihar has been in the news for mass cheating, topper-scam, etc.;

How does cheating take place in Bihar?

Political leaders like Bacha Rai are actively involved in cheating scams in Bihar. Although the government is taking strict action against cheating, these groups are coming up with new ideas. Cheating has become a standard norm in Bihar. Bacha Rai, the head of Bishundeo Rai College, has been involved in such practices since 2005. Bacha Rai was friends with Ruby Rai’s father, who requested him to get his daughter passed. 

In 2016, a bizarre case of three toppers came to light in which the toppers, including the Bihar School Examination Board (BSEB) Arts and Humanities topper Ruby Rai, Science topper Saurabh Shrestha, and third topper in Science stream Rahul Kumar, were unable to answer the basic questions related to the subjects they had topped in. Another cheating case grabbed the limelight, where three examinees were arrested for allegedly cheating using the mobile phone messaging application WhatsApp in Bihar Combined Entrance Competitive Examination in Begusarai district.
In 2017, with a shocking history of explicit cheating cases, the Bihar government tried to make the examination process stricter, adopting fair checking and invigilation practices. As a result, more than 64 percent of students failed the examination.
In 2018, despite putting several security checks, over 1,000 students were expelled for cheating during the Class 12 examinations in Bihar.

Epilogue:

Another day, another educational scam, ~ New normalized festival in India. While the scandals are inextricably tied with the ruling party’s political fortunes, it remains to be seen how far the case goes or how long it takes to bring it to its conclusion. Protests, Twitter trends, demands for CBI inquiry are just a few ways by which students show up their frustration and distress by these scams. While some scams make the headlines, many don’t. No matter how many scams come into the limelight or get exposed, the ultimate sufferer is the honest, hardworking student. The honest student who has worked hard preparing for the exams ends up with no seat in hand, hence may take an extreme step and WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR ALL THIS?. 

The people of India were very hopeful when they got their freedom from British rule because they thought it was also the end of hunger, poverty, and deprivation, but little did they knew that their students’ career was no different to politics. Buying up seats with the power of money was shocking yet confirmed in this era of modern science. India has great potential in terms of education since every year, one crore students pass out of boards, 60 lakhs students pass out of undergrad courses, and 15 lakhs in post-graduate. Entrance examinations are a crucial part of a student’s career. They decide the very first stone of their life, to where they may head in their future. The students go through all the pain to crack these examinations, and on the other hand, some people manipulate and buy up the seats. Not that they realize the severity of the crime they are committing. Every corner of the nation has a genie that pops up and assists the malpractices. Considering the nature of the revelations, strict actions should be taken immediately against such genies so that the genie meekly remains in his bottle.

 

Designs by – Insha Mustafa

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