Con, tact, and contact Smartphone way to a government job

Thousands have used WhasApp and Bluetooth to cheat their way through selection exams for coveted – and critical – positions


Shishir Tripathi | May 29, 2015

#SSC   #staff selection commission   #CAT   #government job   #Smartphone  

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

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.

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.

Trouble was, they all appeared for the exam in the same room of an examination centre in Ambala, Haryana. How one exam centre produced seven toppers is a story that speaks of the rot in the system, and the existence of an organised gang. The fact that one of the accused in the case, Naveen Sehgal, was serving as the deputy regional director of SSC (north-west region – NWR) and “abused his official position and committed criminal misconduct” hints at the extent to which the system has been breached.

Data processing related work with regard to the exam was done by a company named Softpro Consultants. According to the agreement with SSC, it was the responsibility of the data processor to ensure that no pilferage, replacement of application or any addition of application is done by anyone including data processor handling staff at any stage. But the contract for data processing to the company was illegal, according to the charge sheet.
A total of 3,294 candidates were asked to appear for exams at Ambala, which was divided into eight sub-centres. As many as 432 candidates were allotted the sub-centre where the accused had to appear and 24 candidates were allotted room number 3, where the seven accused candidates appeared for the exam. 

The entire application process was manipulated to benefit those seven candidates. The last date of application was June 24, 2011. However, Sehgal who was then the deputy regional director, gave a man named Saurabh Kant, partner in Softpro Consultants, a few applications to add to the bunch of applications already received. According to the investigation report, Kant accepted more applications from a third person named Satish Ahlawat who was working as senior auditor at the principal controller of defence accounts, Chandigarh.

Sehgal instructed Kant to adjust the applications in a manner that all the accused candidates were seated in a single room as some of the
candidates would help them to clear the exam. Kant did as instructed.
Accordingly, the seating plan of the

24 candidates was adjusted in one room by allotting the hall ticket numbers 1000913 to 1000936, after changing their roll numbers already allotted at the time of scrutiny of application forms.

However, after those seven from the same room topped the exam, a candidate filed a complaint with the SSC headquarters in Delhi, which directed the regional office in Chandigarh not to issue letters for the physical training test to those seven dubious candidates.

Sensing trouble, Sehgal directed Kant to take necessary steps to ensure that no irregularity can be traced. However, Kant felt that the entire blame would be put on him if things went out of control, and recorded his conversation with Sehgal that took place in October 27, 2011. The conversation, according to the charge sheet, has Sehgal telling Kant not to mention his name before CBI – the investigation agency SSC had roped in. Sehgal is heard saying that the contract given to Kant for data processing was illegal, perhaps reminding him to return the favour by not naming him.

On March 6, the special CBI court of additional district and sessions judge Vimal Kumar framed charges against Sehgal and 11 others under various sections of Indian Penal Code (IPC) and all of them are under trial.

The court, while framing the charges, concluded that Sehgal with other co-accused “dishonestly attempted to cheat the SSC and manipulated the conduct of examination for recruitment of sub-inspectors in central police organisations and intelligence officer in narcotics control bureau (NCB) at Jain Senior Model School, Ambala city.”

Con Class
In April this year, Delhi police busted a racket that was involved in leaking the paper of exams conducted by SSC for the recruitment of sub-inspectors in income tax department, CBI and other departments. Nine persons, including a Delhi police head constable and two teachers, were arrested. During investigation, two more names surfaced – Sushil and Vikram, who were running ‘coaching centres’ at Sonepat and Bawana. Bijender Chikkara, another accused in the case who was later arrested, told police that he had received the question paper from this duo.

On November 17, the Bareilly police arrested six people. Investigation again revealed the existence of an organised racket with operators based in Jhajjar of Haryana, running a ‘coaching institute’.

Of course, reputed and established coaching institutes are not part of the game. “The coaching institutes whose names have surfaced are situated in far-flung places. They are not coaching institutes by any means. People with wrong motives open these so-called coaching institutes to get their clients,” said the owner of a Mukherjee Nagar-based coaching institute.

However, with numerous cases of paper leaks coming to light, serious aspirants are demotivated. “Indeed, students are anxious. They seem to have lost their faith in the SSC. They are concerned about their future and are looking for alternatives like jobs in banks,” the coaching institute owner said.
Neetu Singh, director of Paramount Coaching which has centres across the country, adds, “I do come tacross students who tell me that they have come to know that papers were sold for Rs 20,000 in their villages. I don’t know if it is true, but it surely
demotivates serious candidates.”

Extent of the problem
In a message posted on the agency website in April, on the occasion of completing one year in the office, SSC chairman A Bhattacharya briefly discussed the challenge of “coping with the increasing number of applicants” for the various exams conducted by the organisation. He went on to discuss in detail the “the bigger challenge” that SSC had to address: “the menace of use of unfair means”.

As the commission has also admitted, in spite of the “best efforts”, the menace continues to pose a major challenge to the credibility of the entire recruiting structure. The use of unfair means and papers being leaked has become a routine affair over the years in the exams conducted by SSC.
Wren Mishra, deputy director (NWR) of SSC, says, “If we want quality and honest officials, the foundation will always be a fair and honest recruitment process. The union public service commission (UPSC) and SSC are the two bodies which have an impeccable record in ensuring a fair and honest recruitment process. However, it is really unfortunate that in the last few years, instances of the use of unfair means in the exam have been reported.”
Mishra says that all possible measures have been taken by the SSC to check the use of unfair means. “In the last few exams we installed jammers and CCTV cameras at all the major centres. ‘Tight frisking’ was instructed. But unless the authorities at the centres do not act responsibly it is tough to check the problem.” 

When wrong candidates get in through cheating, it invariably leads to corruption as they seek to make money. A more serious problem, however, is national security. The departments for which SSC conducts recruitment exams, for example, IB, are critical for internal security, and loopholes in recruitments can be misused to gain entry into the system posing serious challenge to the state.

“No doubt it is a very serious issue considering that they are placed in departments which are very important from security point of view like CBI, NCB and IB. They are also posted in defence headquarters. What will happen if a wrong person is posted in defence headquarters? There can be serious breach of security,” says Mishra.



Other News

HPCL, Tata Steel among National CSR Award 2020 winners

Hindustan Petroleum Corporation, HDFC, Tata Steel and Tech Mahindra are among the winners and the recipients of honourable mentions in the National CSR Awards 2020 announced by the ministry of corporate affairs (MCA) on Thursday. The MCA instituted the annual National Corporate Social Respon

India’s tree lovers get together for a nation-wide tree festival

A good monsoon has left the trees all washed and spruced up. It’s right time to take a good look at them, and also to tell the young generation about their diversity. So, tree lovers across the country have joined hands to celebrate a festival of trees this month. The August Tree Fest

How did a policeman move unarmed and fearlessly for 37 long years in Bihar?

Unbounded: My Experiments with Law, Physics, Policing and Super 30 By Abhayanand Rupa Publications, 344 pages, Rs 595   Abhayanand has

India@75: A timely study of the state of the nation

India after 1947: Reflections & Recollections By Rajmohan Gandhi Aleph, 118 pages, Rs 399 Rajmohan Gandhi was about 11 when India won independence. As the nation celebrates 75 years of freedom, how would he – and others like him – feel?

BMC denies protocol breach in ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’

The BrihanMumbai municipal corporation (BMC) has rebutted a Shiv Sena leader’s allegation of breach of protocol in the implementation of the ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ campaign. On Friday Rahul Shewale, group leader of Shiv Sena in Lok Sabha, had accused BMC commissioner IS Chahal

Mumbai`s stalled building projects: Is self-redevelopment the real solution?

Land in Mumbai city, which is surrounded by water on three sides, is scarce and has a premium. Property prices in certain areas of financial capital of the country are as much as Rs 1 lakh per sq ft. Yet, 5,800 buildings have been lying in a stalled condition for the last 18 years. Meanwhile

Visionary Talk: Amitabh Gupta, Pune Police Commissioner with Kailashnath Adhikari, MD, Governance Now


Current Issue


Facebook    Twitter    Google Plus    Linkedin    Subscribe Newsletter