EVEN as the Maharashtra state education board refused to acknowledge that yet another question paper of the ongoing Class XII board exams was “leaked” Monday morning, the mathematics question paper for students of the Commerce stream taking the Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) examination was leaked on social media about 20 minutes before the paper was to begin. Images of the entire mathematics question paper began to be shared on WhatsApp around 10.40 am. This is the fourth question paper to be leaked since the HSC examinations began on February 28. Earlier, Marathi, Secretarial Practice and Political Science papers were also similarly shared on WhatsApp.
The Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education (MSBSHSE) registered its third complaint with the Vashi police station regarding what it termed “malpractice”. The complaint was attached to the previous two FIRs.
Four people have been arrested in connection with the case till now, including two students and a teacher at a private tuition centre.
Though Monday’s incident was the third consecutive day of pilferage, the board again refrained from acknowledging it as a ‘leak’. “To call it a leak, the question paper must reach students hours before the exam. In this case it is just minutes before the exam, so we are considering it malpractice,” said Dattatreya Jagtap, chairman of the Mumbai Divisional Board, MSBSHSE.
However, after repeated incidents, the board has finally decided to pull up its socks. Security arrangements will be upgraded from Tuesday when the Class X board exams begin. “We will keep track of all the students coming late to the centre,” said Jagtap, hinting that regular latecomers might be probed. The board has also decided to strengthen its flying squads. “Board officials will accompany the flying squads from Tuesday,” said Jagtap. Moreover, neither teachers, nor supervisors will be allowed to carry cellphones into the exam centres.
The board will also consult Cyber Cell of the Crime Branch to curb leaks in future. Maharashtra Education Minister Vinod Tawde said the Cyber Cell would advise the MSBSHSE in ways to improve security.
“We cannot term the instances as ‘leak’ but it is a matter of concern for us. I have personally spoken to the Cyber Cell to expedite investigation,” said Tawde.
According to Laxmikant Pande, who was the chairman of MSBSHSE between 2012 and 2015, the increased access to internet and smartphones had made it easy for culprits to leak question papers. “It is time the board and the government looked at advanced security measures such as jammers,” said Pande, adding that the instances of paper leaks had increased over the past two years.
Meanwhile, teachers, principals and students feared that the repeated incidents of leaks could malign the reputation of the MSBSHSE. “With four papers leaked so far, the board’s reputation is sullied. The board must improve security measures,” said Agnelo Menezes, principal of St Xavier’s College in Dhobi Talao. Uday Nare, a former state board committee member, too, expressed concerns over the security lapse. “The board’s reputation is at stake if instances of leak continue,” said Nare.
According to Menezes, students were the worst sufferers. “Students who get the questions before the exams will have an undue advantage over the ones who prepared throughout the year. The students who slogged through the year will find the leaks disheartening,” he said.
Students agreed. “When we see reports of leaks, we feel that all our efforts are in vain,” said an Arts student from South Mumbai who did not wish to be named. “Students usually walk in late and are seen sitting outside with mobile phones despite precautions,” she said.