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When the examiner cheated...

In 2007-08, the Madhya Pradesh Local Fund Audit Office found financial and administrative irregularities in the accounts of the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board (MPPEB), as well as unauthorised disposal of application forms worth crores.

Last year, Anand Rai, a health activist alerted the police about a large number of scorers put up at a hotel in Indore. Four people were arrested following a raid by the Indore Crime Branch. The Indore police arrested about 50 medical students and scorers ahead of the Pre-Medical Test (PMT) exam in 2013.

Dr. Jagdish Singh Sagar, the mastermind behind the racket was arrested in Mumbai. During the raid, the police discovered documents including an exact match of the MPPEB seating plan and private colleges were found to be involved.  As investigations progressed, several other exams such as entrance exams for village accountants, teachers, police constables and forest guards came under scanner. The investigation was then passed on to the Special Task Force (STF).

In October 2013, the MPPEB cancelled results of 345 students who appeared for PMT in July 2013. Some of these students had taken admission in government medical colleges. These students paid Rs. 25 lakh each to officials for roll number manipulation and change in seating arrangements. In June 2014, the STF arrested 100 students connected with the PMT scam.

The operation has been going on for several years. MPPEB officials, protected by politicians and higher-ups manipulated the selection process for government jobs and entrance exams. They tied up with students, parents, brokers, politicians and syndicates and arranged for “scorers” to impersonate weak students. All, of course at a price. MBBS students from neighbouring states, called “scorers” sat next to the weak student and helped him copy the answers. Another ‘facility’ offered was that the student could leave his Optical Mark Recognition (OMR) sheet partially blank for the examiner to fill up later at the MPPEB Headquarters!

So far, 1045 students who cleared PMT through this route have their admissions cancelled. The biggest discovery is that while the departmental recruitment exams are supposed to be conducted by the state Public Service Commission, it was actually being conducted by the MPPEB! The scale of operations is so huge that it is being compared to the Bihar Fodder Scam.

The entire scam is estimated to be worth Rs 2000 crore. The MPPEB has made close to Rs 125 crore through result-fixing in 150 recruitment exams for 53 state departments.

 

The Accused

During the probe, the STF discovered that the MPPEB received 139 phone calls from a phone in the chief minister’s residence. Fingers are being pointed at the chief minister’s wife’s direct involvement. The chief minister, however, claims that he ordered the STF probe as soon as he came to know about the irregularities in government appointments.

There is a possibility of the case being passed on to the CBI in the light of the scale of the operations.

The scam is just a tip of the iceberg, and is many times worse than the practice of donations taken by private colleges for admissions. Farce in recruitment, testing and promotions needs to be dealt with an iron hand. You cannot allow the scourge of corruption to enter the temple of education.

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