Thousands have used WhasApp and Bluetooth to cheat their way through selection exams for coveted – and critical – positions
Shishir Tripathi | May 29, 2015
The invigilator is distributing the question paper in a school classroom. Amid stony silence, many aspirants appearing for the selection exam for government jobs are sweating – but not all. One has quietly taken out his smartphone and is taking photographs of the question paper. He then sends it out, and coolly waits for a reply. At another place in town, a man downloads the photos of the question paper, and passes them on to a battery of youngsters who quickly jot down answers, after consulting textbooks and guides. The whole operation runs with an assured smoothness that can come only with long practice. Now the man picks up the phone and starts relaying the answers – just A, B, C or D since this is an objective, multiple choice type question paper – to the right candidates in the exam hall. The select candidates there have come equipped with tiny devises hidden in their ears, and they start ticking off the right answers. Some don’t have Bluetooth, and they get answers through plan SMSs. Many of these ‘fortunate’ candidates in fact complete the test within an hour, instead of the allotted three hours.
This was the scene at a school in Delhi, on September 29 last year, during the combined graduate level exam conducted by the staff selection commission (SSC).
This astounding and innovative use of technology is happening with alarming frequency in exams held by the SSC, the agency that oversees the hiring for much-in-demand government jobs. Annually, 80,000 to 1,00,000 people get government jobs – in crucial departments like central secretariat service, intelligence bureau and CBI – through SSC. About 10 percent of them, which comes to 10,000, used unfair means, and half of them used smartphones to land themselves a life-changing job, according to senior officials of the SSC as well as the central bureau of investigation (CBI) that is probing several instances of such rackets.
Ahead of the last year’s exam, the crime branch of Delhi police had got information about the possible leak of the paper. “The inputs said that the solved answer keys of the question paper will be sent to a number of candidates through SMS and many of the candidates would also be using Bluetooth devises. The input further said that this cheating is likely to take place at various centres in Delhi, UP, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, etc.,” Ravindra Yadav, joint commissioner of police (crime), Delhi, said in a note. Specific inputs named four exam centres, two in Delhi,
and one each in Allahabad and Lucknow, where this crime was likely to take place.
Eventually, police managed to nab six men, all in their mid-20s, who otherwise were well on their way to serve the nation as income tax inspectors, excise inspectors, CBI sub-inspectors and other ‘Group B’ posts in various government departments.
“Preliminary investigation has revealed that this is a very widespread racket going on [on] a large scale. Large sums of money are being exchanged to facilitate the leakage of the paper,” Yadav noted.
An SSC exam conducted on April 21 last year provides another example of innovative use of emerging technologies. Some of the candidates, aspiring to work for departments like income tax, customs, excise and enforcement directorate, received the answers on their WhatsApp and in their inbox. The answers were being fed from a room in a house in the outskirts of Delhi by a group that included three teachers, a sales tax inspector who was awaiting the result of mains exam of civil services, a lower divisional clerk (LDC) in the external affairs ministry, and two post-graduate students. They were equipped with ten mobile phones, two laptops and other gadgets.
The central administrative tribunal (CAT), Delhi, on April 25 cancelled this whole exam. In its order CAT observed, “Electronic gadgets such as laptop, mobile phone, data cards and pen drives have been extensively used.”
“There is a nexus of unscrupulous invigilators and coaching institutes operating and facilitating this whole cheating process. Their modus operandi is simple: after the question paper arrives at the centre, it is scanned using smartphones and sent to these people who are ready with experts who after solving it send the answer keys to the candidates on their mobile phones,” Yadav told Governance Now.
“In the mofussil towns like Sonepat, Meerut and Baghpat there is huge craze for government jobs. These coaching institutes set up their centres at these places, and easily get their clients. Parents of the candidates are ready to pay around Rs 5 lakh for the post of a constable and more than Rs 20 lakh are paid in some instances for the post of inspector in various departments,” he said. Only solution, according to him, is an online exam.
In its annual report SSC states, “With the advancement of technology, the chance of misuse of latest technology to vitiate the examination process has also increased. A few unscrupulous candidates may attempt to violate sanctity of the process of the examination.”
What has alerted the police of many states as well as CBI is the fact that ‘cheating’ is no longer a matter of individual enterprise but it has become an organised crime. Given the large stakes involved, scammers have come to misuse especially two things: the system internal to the SSC, and modern technology through the smartphone.
Beating the system
If the curtains would not have been drawn on the conspiracy in time, seven people would have been serving today possibly in the intelligence unit of narcotics control bureau (NCB) or guarding the Delhi Metro as central industrial security force (CISF) officials – and trying to make good their original investment of paying the people who leaked the exam paper. Sandeep Kumar, Chitra Vasu, Hargovind Dangi, Deepak Sindhu, Subodh Gaur, Dinesh Kumar and Rakesh Kumar were all-India toppers in the exam conducted by SSC on August 28, 2011 to recruit sub-inspectors in central police organisations (CPOs), CISF and intelligence officers in NCB.
Cheating is on the rise
November 2014: Bareilly police arrested six people, catching them with the answer keys of the question papers in an exam conducted by SSC
November 2014: 21 candidates caught cheating in Haldwani, Dehradun and Almora. The question paper of the exam was leaked on November 2 from Haldwani. The exam was held for recruiting clerical staff for various central government offices
November 2013: Delhi police arrested five people including a Delhi police sub-inspector for feeding answers to candidates
September 2013: Six candidates were arrested for cheating, using mobile phones and Bluetooth devices
October 2012: A paper leak was averted in Delhi. A government school principal along with a physical training instructor and a Delhi police constable were arrested.
August 2011: Seven students from same room in Ambala topped an SSC exam. Later investigation revealed involvement of a high-ranking SSC official who had manipulated the application process
Multiple-choice as the wrong choice?
According to a high-ranking SSC official, the exam pattern was changed in 2009, introducing multiple-choice questions, which helps cheaters. “The change was made following an expert committee’s recommendations. They must have thought that the assessment of the multiple choice questions will be extremely objective and will take less time, which is true to a great extent. But at the same time it increases the chances of the use of unfair means,” said the official.
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