Frequent paper leaks call for course correction

At a time when so much was happening around- Prime Minister Narendra Modi attending the ‘Pran Pratishtha’ or consecration of the Ram temple at Ayodhya and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar switching sides again preceding his ninth stint as CM, Tehelka Special Investigation Team was working overtime to expose rampant leak of question papers of competitive examinations. Our Cover Story “Paper leak mafia unplugged” unveils an illicit network that not only orchestrates paper leaks but also aids those desperate to immigrate in navigating the illicit ‘donkey’ route. Our undercover reporter recorded on hidden camera claims of an agent who boasted, “Our mafia reigns supreme as the main force behind the leakage of examination papers. Our reach extends to even the prestigious IAS examination, which is available for a price tag of Rs 3 crore. We assure you a fool proof package, covering Prelims, Main, and Interview, all with an unequivocal 100 percent guarantee.”

Demand-supply mismatch with a handful of vacancies in government departments attracting lakhs of applicants has led to corrupt ways to grab these.  Little doubt, paper leak cases are being reported from several states including West Bengal, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka,  Bihar and Telangana.  In Rajasthan, there have been over two dozen cases of paper leak during 2011 to 2022. In Himachal, the new state government dissolved the staff selection commission upon coming to power. In Gujarat, the Bhavnagar Police lodged an FIR in 2023 busting a state wide mafia that arranged dummy candidates to appear for government jobs. In Bihar, the Staff Selection Commission’s offline paper was leaked leading to the arrest of its chairman. In Telangana, the State Public Service Commission question paper for Junior Engineers Town Planning was leaked and had to be cancelled when it fuelled protests.  Uttar Pradesh also saw many instances of paper leak but what raised the eyebrows was the arrest of three scribes who had exposed some paper leaks but were allegedly trapped by cops after they made them share a copy of the leaked examination question paper.

However, a stunner came from Haryana when the Supreme Court, took suo-motu notice of leak of Judicial Service (Preliminary) exam and transferred  to itself the case pending before the Punjab and Haryana High Court. A candidate had moved the High Court, alleging she was approached by two persons a day before the examination who offered to provide her the question paper for Rs 1 crore.  In the dental surgeon examination and pre-examination of Haryana Civil Services, an HCS officer has been named as the main accused.

It is time to make sure that not one more exam paper leak occurs in future by enacting a national legislation to curb such leaks. The remedy sometimes could be worse than the disease but the existing system needs immediate course correction.