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2021: Many recruitment exam scams unearthed; 2022: hope for reforms to plug existing loopholes

🔴 Investigators hope that 2022 will bring reforms in these systems, whose existing flaws were exploited by the nexus of insiders, middlemen and private coaching classes.

Written by Sushant Kulkarni | Pune |
Updated: January 1, 2022 11:08:48 am
File photo of arrested suspects in the paper leak case at Pune police commissioner's office.

LAST YEAR was marked by a large number of scams in defence and government recruitment processes unearthed by the police and other agencies. Investigators hope that 2022 will bring reforms in these systems, whose existing flaws were exploited by the nexus of insiders, middlemen and private coaching classes.

Army paper leak sees a slew of arrests of men in uniform

On February 28, the Army was to conduct a pan-India Common Entrance Exam (CEE) for recruitment of soldiers (general duty). This particular process was referred to as ‘relation recruitment’ meaning this drive was for those who have immediate relatives in the Army. The written exam was to be conducted at 40 exam centres across India and around 30,000 aspirants were to appear for it. After receiving a tip-off about a paper leak, sleuths from Military Intelligence of the Army conducted a joint operation with Pune Police’s crime branch and seized leaked question papers.

A primary investigation revealed that the suspected leaked paper was a 100 per cent match to the original question paper, following which the Army cancelled the entire process.

As part of the investigation, police arrested one Lieutenant Colonel, two officers at the rank of Major, one serving soldier and four ex-servicemen and other civilians. Days, after the leak was discovered, the Indian Army had said that the existing system of the recruitment process will be made more failproof and robust by incorporating the findings of a joint investigation by Army authorities and Maharashtra Police.

On the backdrop of the probe, Southern Army Commander Lieutenant General JS Nain instituted proactive measures to enable early completion of the investigations and issued strict instructions to all the station commanders in the area of responsibility to assist in the investigations.

The Army had said, “The timely actions and wholehearted support by the Army to the police is reflective of Army’s resolve to weed out malpractices and make the existing recruitment system failproof and robust.”

Bribery and answer key leak in another Army recruitment

In a joint operation with the Army in November, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested two serving Havildars from Pune on the charges of bribery in the process of recruitment of civilian personnel for an Army Ordnance Corps formation located in the city. Investigating the leads from this case, the CBI further booked a serving Army officer of Lieutenant Colonel rank and two more Army personnel for allegedly leaking answer key for an exam conducted for Army recruitment of selection of personnel for various trades through the examination held in 2020-21.

Swindling of Railway job aspirants

In an elaborate scam, several job aspirants in Pune were cheated of over Rs 6 lakh each after they were lured with jobs in the Indian Railways from the ‘ministry quota’. Over a dozen aspirants, who were duped, were asked to shell out Rs 6 to 7 lakh each. They were made to appear for fake exams and interviews and were handed over fake appointment letters.

The aspirants were even made to undergo fake training at a coaching centre staffed by two people at Ranchi for over 45 days in January and February 2021. The racketeers went to the extent of telling the victims that they had been allotted duties at various railway stations in Jharkhand.

Upon reaching these locations in August, the aspirants were also asked to get ready with their uniforms. When these youths reported for work, they were told that no such appointments had been made. Police booked 13 persons in the scam, including key racketeers from Madhya Pradesh.

Maharashtra govt recruitments: Five back-to-back scams

The cyber crime sleuths from Pune City Police brought to light five instances of malpractices in government recruitments, including paper leaks and compromising the evaluation of answer sheets, in November and December this year.

These actions saw as many as 31 arrests, including senior government officials, middlemen, private entities contracted for recruitment processes and candidates, along with confiscation of assets worth over Rs 6 crore illegally amassed by the key racketeers in the case.

The investigation in the series of scams started with the cyber cell launching an investigation into a paper leak in the recruitment process of Group D employees in the Health Department. Several top serving officials of the Health Department have been put behind bars.

It was followed by an investigation into the leak of a question paper of the recruitment process of Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA). While this exam was to be held on December 12, the leak was detected on December 10 and the exam was cancelled by the government. Subsequently, the investigators revealed a large scam involving tampering of marks in the exam process of Teachers Eligibility Test (TET) exams of 2019 and 2018.
Finally, the latest scam to be unearthed was a paper leak in the Group C recruitment process of the Health Department in the exam held on October 24.

Hope for reforms, tech upgrades and accountability

Multiple senior officials overseeing probes of the recruitment scams have said that there is a serious lacuna in the recruitment processes, which was successfully used by the racketeers with the help of insiders.

“There is an urgent need to make these processes technologically robust. Some of the systems still do not have even the basic checks and balances that exist for SSC and HSC examinations. Introduction of biometric system, video surveillance and monitoring and stricter checks with the agency that handles the exam process are the need of the hour. A leaked exam paper takes no time to spread and can result in compromising the entire recruitment process. The honest students are always at the losing end,” said a senior officer.

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