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Maharashtra: At least 9 ways to cheat; classes on how to leak papers

Some of the suspects have made Pune police investigators aware of a countrywide network of racketeers involved in paper leaks across India and of a training centre that gives tutorials on methods of leaking the exam papers, The Indian Express has learnt.

Written by Sushant Kulkarni | Pune |
Updated: February 23, 2022 7:04:59 am
UGC raps private university over question in political science paperThe FIR quotes the Nesvad school principal as having stated that copies of question papers of all the subjects of Class 7 and one question paper for the subject of Gujarati language for the Class 8 were stolen.(Representational)

THE INVESTIGATION into the slew of malpractices in the Maharashtra government exams, which has seen a total of 44 arrests so far by Pune police, revealed at least nine different methods used by the suspects to tamper with the examination system.

Some of the suspects have made Pune police investigators aware of a countrywide network of racketeers involved in paper leaks across India and of a training centre that gives tutorials on methods of leaking the exam papers, The Indian Express has learnt.

Since October last year, the Cyber Crime cell of Pune police is investigating five linked cases in which five different Maharashtra government recruitment processes were compromised by a nexus of senior government office bearers, touts and private players and candidates.

These cases include those of paper leaks in two State Health Department exams of Group C and D, tampering of assessment of papers in Teachers’ Eligibility Test (TET) of two years of 2018 and 2019-20 and a paper leak for recruitment in Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA).

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So far, these five cases have seen a total of 44 arrests, including senior government officials, an IAS officer, several middlemen, people from private entities contracted for recruitment processes, coaching class owners. Assets worth over Rs 7 crore illegally amassed by these suspects were also seized.

The coordinated action by five teams from the cyber crime cell resumed three weeks ago after a break due to several officers in the team testing positive for Covid-19.

Sources, who are part of the probe, have told The Indian Express that in the case of offline exams, the process is tampered using various methods such as leaking the paper directly from the committee that sets the paper or leaking it from the facility where the paper is printed.

In some cases, the marks are tampered with when the exam paper of failing candidates is assessed, or the candidate is asked to leave the OMR (Optical Mark Recognition) sheet blank and is filled by the inside operators before it is scanned by OMR scanner for evaluation.

In the case of online methods of examination, the racketeers use various technical hacks for tampering with the system. In some cases, the suspects gain access to paper much before the exam time by breaking into the code of the system where the paper is uploaded sometime before the exam is conducted. In some cases, the network exam centre where the online exam is conducted is infiltrated and paper is accessed beforehand. In other cases, candidates used hidden devices.

In some cases, the private entities that conduct the exam and the exam centre operators connive and change the answers given by the candidates after the exam. The ninth method, which is common to both online and offline processes is that of a dummy candidate appearing for an exam.

The investigations further revealed some startling details such as the existence of a countrywide nexus of people involved in paper leaks, which some of the suspects arrested by Pune police are part of. Police have got details of a coaching centre in a state in northern India that gives tutorials on how to leak exam papers. The teams from cybercrime cell are now probing these new leads given by the suspects.

Sources have told The Indian Express that multiple communications have been sent from the office DCP (Cyber Crime and Economic Offenses) Bhagyashree Navatake and Police Commissioner Amitabh Gupta to the state government on how exactly the papers were leaked and the exam processes were tampered with. Some of these communications include detailed confidential reports on the modus operandi of the suspects and possible ways to stop these malpractices in the future.

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