UP Elections: No Shortage of Paper Leaks and Exam-Related Scams Under Yogi Raj
Representational use only.Image Courtesy: The Indian Express
Exam paper leaks and subsequent cancellation post-leaks are a common phenomenon across UP. It is a persistent problem that points to the deviousness of certain groups and individuals that the state calls 'paper-leak gangs', and the rot that is creeping hideously in the state government's bureaucracy and organisations that conduct exams.
While many coaching institutes are always under the radar and are evidenced to be behind major paper leaks of exams such as UPTET (Uttar Pradesh Teacher Eligibility Test), CTET (Central Teacher Eligibility Test), the present state government, the Yogi raj that has been beating its chest, claiming an improvement in law and order situation, has not been able to find a concrete solution to such a problem that ruins the time and energy of lakhs of aspirants.
BJP MP Varun Gandhi has been critical of his government, raising the issue of unemployment under the Yogi government and paper leaks, asking, “Till when should the youth of India be patient?” He called for “action against 'political patrons of the education mafia.”
The opposition has been critical of the recent paper leak of UPTET 2021. Akhilesh Yadav has slammed the state government, claiming the paper leaks have been common under the Yogi raj.
When Yogi Adityanath became the CM of the state in 2017, students had a hope that free and fair examinations would be conducted without any notorious paper leaks. Five years later, students say that the situation has gotten worse. After four months of the Yogi government in 2017, the first major exam cancellation students saw was for the UP Police recruitment exams. Though strict action and arrests were conducted, the issue's core resurfaces in many forms. The UPSI (UP Sub-Inspector) exam conducted in 2021 has been surrounded by controversies, where students have alleged rigging of exams against the exam conducting board and demanded a CBI investigation.
Anita Kumari, an aspirant preparing for government exams for several years, hailing from Banaras, appeared for UPTET in November 2021. More than 20 lakh aspirants appeared across 75 districts in UP. "I travelled to Lucknow to appear for the exam, and my exam went fine," said Anita, "but as soon as I went out of the centre, I was told by other students that the exam papers were already leaked."
Disheartened, she complains about her wasted time and money. "I travelled for so long only, spending my money, to see the exam getting cancelled. It was rescheduled in January, and I reappeared for it. How long will it be till I can clear my exam and get a job?"
She added that "I don't think much has changed under the Yogi government, and paper leaks are still a common reality." Bunty, another aspirant, says that the attempt of the government to curb 'paper-solver rackets' is superficial. "It is interesting to see that soon after a paper is leaked, the government readily organises an STF to investigate and arrest the culprits. But it so happens that after all the chaos of arrests of and curbing of these rackets, the next paper which is rescheduled is also leaked," Bunty said, "I don't think anyone is serious about conducting safe and fair exams."
Gopal, who hails from Phulwaria village near Banaras, appeared for UPPET (UPSSSC Preliminary Eligibility Test) in August 2021, says that the paper was leaked and was already present on several students' phones. "As soon as I finished my exam, my friends showed me that the full paper was leaked online and appeared on their WhatsApp," Gopal said, "Due to such incidents, we are really demotivated to even appear for exams again." These being incidents of offline exams, Shivkumar, another aspirant, says that online exams aren't any better.
"We cannot trust online exams as well. Online hacking and remote access are huge possibilities. Those private individuals who run exam centres can be easily bribed to allow such access. If the government wants to tighten control, it needs to build a better framework," Shivkumar said, "Only commissioning of STF for paper leaks won't do any good. Still, the government needs to make sure that the root causes of paper leaks are removed." It is a noticeable trend; the cycle starts with a paper leak, followed by an investigation by a state-commissioned STF and arrests, ends in another paper leak or scam. "The government, if it wants to do something, must order a committee to properly investigate the depth of the rackets behind enabling such scams," Shivkumar said.
Utkarsh Singh is another aspirant who says that it has become a norm in the last five years that after every online exam, we have to be worried about any scams and leaks, more than the results themselves. "We give exams after so much hard work; then we find out that the paper has been leaked. Then we do dharna-pradarshan in front of the exam centre. We next wait for rescheduling and prepare again. So much of my time has been wasted," Utkarsh said.
Bribery is another issue that aspirants anticipate that may ruin their hard work. "There are many steps to an exam. Post clearing an exam, I would have an interview, then a medical and physical test, etc. In any of these steps, if there are cases of bribery, other selected candidates may suffer due to it," Shivkumar said, "The interviewers may score me less, or the medical examiner may note a problem just to take away my rightfully earned seat." Further commenting on the prevalence of bribes and rigged exams, Arun Srivastava, who runs his coaching centre in Mughalsarai, says, "I am appalled at the state of affairs regarding exams. I have such excellent students, who are meritorious and hardworking, but they have their dreams broken."
Even though he wants to stand in solidarity with protesting students when such scams surface, he cannot because there is a threat that the police may crackdown on his profession. It is mostly small coaching centres across many districts in UP that leak papers. Any coaching institute then is a natural target for the investigation into paper-leak rackets by the state.
The prevalence of bribes is an age-old problem. "It used to be that there would be a fixed rate for any and all posts. If you had the money, you could be anything," Arun remarks cynically, "if you want to be a peon, a clerk, a rate of several lakhs used to be fixed. I feel such a system of rates is still prevalent, and not much has changed." Those who have reached in government bureaucracy or are politically connected, "the neta-types start setting up arrangements for seats for their kin even before a job notification has been announced. So 30% of the seats are sold out already," Arun said.
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