The Criminal Investigation Department of the Karnataka Police, which is investigating a scam in an exam conducted in October 2021 to recruit 545 police sub-inspectors (PSIs), has found that some candidates were provided help in filling up their OMR sheets by invigilators and some were provided the answers via Bluetooth devices from outside the exam halls.
Police sources familiar with the investigation so far – it has led to the arrest of seven candidates – said that candidates who had set up arrangements for cheating in the recruitment exam were all allotted common examination centres and halls by the state police recruitment cell.
While the investigations have largely been focused on candidates who took the recruitment exam at a private school in Kalaburagi district operated by a former president of the district BJP women’s wing, Divya Hagaragi, the scam was also perpetrated in other exam centres in Bengaluru, Karnataka Home Minister Araga Jnanendra said on Friday, while announcing a re-exam for the 545 PSI posts.
The CID is yet to identify candidates who used unfair means to get selected for the PSI post outside of the Kalaburagi centre run by Hagaragi. The candidates who were aided by exam fraud mafia are alleged to have paid Rs 35 lakh to Rs 80 lakh for selection.
The CID is now conducting forensic analysis of the OMR sheets of all 545 candidates who were selected through the exam conducted on October 3, 2021 to ascertain which candidates may have resorted to cheating. “Some of the OMR sheets have tell-tale evidence where carbon copies reveal that candidates answered very few questions but the original sheets sent for evaluation show that the candidate answered all the questions,” police sources said.
The CID has so far arrested seven candidates – five received help from invigilators for filling up their OMR sheets and two were provided assistance through Bluetooth devices. The CID has also arrested a government employee involved in assisting an eighth candidate via Bluetooth. The eighth candidate, a woman, is yet to be arrested. All the candidates took their exam at the Jnana Jyothi English School in Kalaburagi run by Hagaragi.
A total of 22 arrests have been made in the PSI recruitment scam so far.
The recruitment wing of Karnataka state police was established in 2000 and is responsible for the recruitment of non-gazetted posts in the police department, including posts of various departments that come under the home department, like firemen, jailors, warders and others.
A CID source said there are a lot of stakeholders in the scam, ranging from agents, school owners, politicians, police officials, aspirants and government officials. “They have charged aspirants somewhere between Rs 35 lakh to Rs 80 lakh. The aspirants have paid because they know that there is an established network to make these things happen,” the officer said. “This is not restricted to Kalaburagi alone but has spread to other parts as well. Some aspirants have said that in one of the reputed colleges in Bengaluru – which was an examination centre – some people dictated answers to them,” said Ravi Shankar Malipatil, a former police constable who quit his job in 2018 to attempt the police sub-inspectors recruitment exam.
“After the examination in October 2021, there were rumours of malpractice. When we got hold of some evidence, we started writing to several officers and the home minister about it. We were turned away by a senior IPS officer stating that they knew the exam was fixed but could do nothing. When evidence was provided to the home minister, he ordered a probe,” Malipatil said.
As many as 54,000 candidates appeared for the examination for the 545 PSI posts conducted on October 3, 2021 across 92 centres in seven cities in Karnataka. The 54,000 candidates were chosen from an original group of 1.5 lakh aspirants.
With the Karnataka government announcing a re-examination, many candidates who were selected last have indicated their intent to approach the Karnataka high court. Some of the candidates approached former CM H D Kumaraswamy in Hubbali on Friday and sought his help to clear the mess.
“If there have been only seven candidates from one centre who have been identified for cheating in the recruitment exam, why is the government cancelling the entire selection? Where is the evidence to indicate that irregularities occurred across all centres?” a candidate asked.
The exam scam emerged after a candidate Veeresh N, who obtained the seventh rank among 67 candidates selected from the Kalyana Karnataka region, was found to have obtained 121 marks despite answering only 21 out of 100 questions in an objective paper for 150 marks as per the carbon copy of his OMR sheet.
“When the coded OMR sheet of the candidate Veeresh received at the police recruitment cell was compared with the OMR sheet that was provided for the candidate by members of the public, it was found that Veeresh had answered only 21 questions in the exam hall. The OMR sheet received at the police recruitment cell showed that he had answered all 100 questions,” says a CID FIR in the case. Each question carried 1.5 marks and the total available marks in the objective section was 150 marks.