Allahabad court detects fraud in UP teacher selection process

The reports of widespread corruption and inefficiency in UP’s education sector came to light when a court found the answer sheets had been replaced to select ‘favoured’ candidates. MUDIT MATHUR reports

The tall claims of clean, efficient and transparent governance were once again shattered when the selection process adopted by the UP government for the selection of 68,000 assistant teachers in the basic education sector of the state failed to pass the test of its judicial scrutiny. The court summoned the records of answer sheet and other evaluating records with the carbon copy of the candidate and noticed discrepancies. The competition for Assistant Teacher Recruitment Examination 2018 (ATRE 2018) was conducted by the newly created Examination Regulatory Authority  (ERC).

Amid the charges of large-scale corruption and bungling in the selection process, the expose actually came up before Lucknow Bench of Allahabad High Court where a scheduled caste candidate, Sonika Devi, filed a writ petition claiming that her answer sheet was replaced as candidates who secured less than her marks have been called for counselling scheduled for the first week of September. Meanwhile, Justice Irshad Ali, provisionally allowed the petitioner to attend the counselling. The court will resume its further proceedings in the matter on 17th September.

When the answer sheet produced by the Secretary, ERA was compared with the carbon copy of the petitioner before the court it did not tally. Advocate General then persuaded the court to allow him to produce before it bar code bearing on the copy for tallying, to clarify whether this is the copy of the petitioner or not. Court agreed to his suggestion but when Sri Dharmendra Shahi, Technical Expert, examined the copy and found that the bar code bearing on the first page does not tally with the bar code bearing on the rest of inner pages of the answer sheet. It left no room for the court but to entertain the petition and grant interim relief to the complainant.

Failing to satisfy court’s pointed queries, the red-faced Advocate General Raghvendra Singh assured the court that the government would conduct an independent enquiry into the murky affairs and shall inform the court about its outcome. The angry Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath immediately suspended the secretary ERC, Sutta Singh, and ordered disciplinary action against her as per rules, besides removing Secretary, Basic Shiksha Parishad, Sanjay Sinha.

On his directives, later the state government formed a three-member committee headed by principal secretary, Sanjay R Bhoosreddy, Vedpati Mishra, project director of UP Education for All,  and Sarvendra Vikram Bahadur Singh, Director of Basic Education.

Defining the terms of reference assigned to this high level committee, Manisha Trighatia, Secretary, Basi Education said, “The committee will probe the anomaly in assistant teacher recruitment process and fix accountability of those involved. The panel will submit its report in seven days and will suggest measures to plug loopholes to prevent a recurrence of the scam.”

Highly placed sources in the government feel scam of such a big level could not be possible without the active connivance between examination conducting computer agency and senior officers of the department. The manner in which barcodes in the copies were exchanged itself speaks of fairness in the selecting process. The reports of destruction of evidence by burning the answer sheets by the suspended officer in Allahabad office have been videographed and the video going viral on social media further creates doubt in the people about transparency and fairness in the selections. Some aspirants have also knocked the doors of Allahabad High Court.

The state capital is besieged with marches and protests by the unsuccessful candidates who could not be selected in the final list as they are alleging organised scam in the selection process. They are not satisfied with high-level probe and are demanding CBI probe into the matter. “In this examination, a list of 23 examinees was obtained, who had not cleared examination, but were declared as qualified,” they alleged.

They have been staging a continuous protest in the state capital. The exam was conducted on May 27, 2018, whereas the government modified cutoff criterion for the various reserved and unreserved categories on 21st May 2018 just six days before the actual examination date. New norms reduced the number of successful candidates to 41,556 whereas requisition was notified for 68,500 assistant teachers.

Most of the protesters had similar grievances. Expressing their dissatisfaction over the manner this examination was conducted, many candidates registered their allegations during talks with Tehelka , while they went to meet former Chief Minister and Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav. Puja from Aurriya district (R.N.3535100429) alleged, “Evaluation of carbon copy of my answer sheet with declared answer keys does not match at all. I must secure 80 marks whereas the result sheet gave me just 37 marks.” Manbodh (R.N. 35381105203) from Pratapgarh said, “Instead of 74 marks I got 64 marks.” Yatindra Kumar (4064136) from Hathras district levelled the serious charge of forgery with his answer sheet, “Scanned copy of my answer sheet recorded that I secured 91 marks out of 150, but in the results I was declared failed, securing just 41 marks.” He felt that his answer sheets appeared as replaced with one Miss Sita who secured 41 marks, but in results, she just got 91 marks.

Sumit Kumar from western UP Amroha (R.N.12130302210) complained, “I just got 45 marks whereas my answer sheet accounts for 75 marks.” Similar charges were advanced by Sudhir Singh of Allahabad, Gourav Shukla of Faizabad, Vimal Kumar Mishra of Deoria, Rajnish of Bhadoi, Bhim Sing of Basti, Gaya Prasad Yadav, Rishikesh Paswan and many others who surrounded this correspondent pressing to note down their details.

Addressing the protesting candidates, Akhilesh Yadav took the advantage of the situation and alleged that, “BJP government has committed a big scam in the appointment of teachers in the state. It has cheated the job aspirant youths and is playing with the future of BTC teachers.”

On the other front, pressing the demand for immediate appointment, the passed candidates for BTC teachers’ examination, were mercilessly cane charged, manhandled, arrested and  deported to secluded place after midnight on 8th September 2018 by police force from the office premises of Director Basic Education, where they were staging continuous sit-in for the last nine days. Police did not even spare the protesting women present at the site of the peaceful demonstration.

The ATRE-2018 was conducted to fill 68,500 vacant posts of teachers in government primary schools in pursuance to advertisement dated 23.01.2018. More than one lakh aspirants had appeared in the exam, whose results were declared in August. After the declaration of the result of the written examination of the recruitment, answer key was issued by the Examination Regulatory Authority U.P. Lucknow on 13.8.2018. However, only 41,556 could clear it. The exam was held at 248 centres in the 18 divisions of UP. The first district allocation list for counselling was announced on August 31, 2018, while second district allocation list for counselling was  declared on September 2, 2018.

At a time when BJP is preparing for rejuvenating its popularity graphs, Yogi Adityanath is busy showcasing the pro poor development initiatives to make a front to challenge the united opposition in 2019 general elections. Amid preparations to promote its flagship schemes promising to provide more and more jobs, such oppressive steps with young job seekers can prove counterproductive. Such unfavourable situation could be wisely averted but due to gross mismanagement, insensitivity and lack of concern in the administration about the deteriorating education sector, it happened.