Mysterious deposits amounting to Rs 4.9 lakh in an NIOS employee’s bank account; fake answerscripts carrying serial numbers similar to the ones generated by the examination board; and a manipulated attendance sheet.
As Madhya Pradesh finds itself embroiled in another examination racket, these are some of the clues investigators will be looking at in their probe into how the Class X and XII open school examination was rigged at three centres — Ratlam, Umaria and Sehore — in the state.
The Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry has asked the CBI to investigate the alleged irregularities in this year’s NIOS (National Institute of Open Schooling) results. This followed a letter by NIOS Chairman Chandra B Sharma on August 22, pointing out that a preliminary probe had found that more than 1,000 candidates from Madhya Pradesh had passed the examination without appearing for it.
The preliminary probe had been ordered after the NIOS was alerted about “large-scale malpractice” in the exam, in the first week of June. It was confined to the examination centres of Kendriya Vidyalaya on Sagod Road (Ratlam district), Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya, Pali (Umaria district) and Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya, Shyampur (Sehore district), as well as the Guwahati regional centre where the answerscripts were evaluated.
The findings of the probe:
Manipulated attendance sheet
On the day of the NIOS examination, attendance is marked on two sheets — one identifying each candidate with her name and photograph, and another carrying signatures. After the examination is over, the attendance sheet with photographs is sent to the regional centre (Bhopal, in this case) and the other to the evaluation centre.
The three-member committee found that attendance sheets dispatched from each of three examination centres to the evaluation centre in Guwahati were manipulated. For instance, the attendance record (with photos) received in Bhopal from Kendriya Vidyalaya, Sagod, showed that only 19 out of 693 candidates had appeared for the test. But the sheet (with signatures) dispatched to the evaluation centre in Guwahati reflected that all the examinees were present. In what points to racketeers having access to NIOS stationery, the panel also observed that the rigged attendance sheet sent to Guwahati looked authentic.
All NIOS examination centres, as per rules, have to return all the unused answerscripts to their respective regional centres after the examination. When the committee inspected the regional centre of Bhopal on July 7, it discovered that all the unused answerscripts had been duly returned by the three exam centres in Ratlam, Umaria. However, the Guwahati evaluation centre, curiously, received a bundle of answerscripts, including those belonging to absent candidates. Since the accompanying attendance sheet (carrying signatures) received at Guwahati showed all the candidates as present, the evaluation centre, it seems, did not suspect anything.
Missing NIOS logo
When the probe committee went through the answerscripts evaluated at Guwahati, it noticed that the ones belonging to the absentee candidates did not have the NIOS logo imprint. However, the serial numbers on fake answerscripts received at Guwahati were similar to the ones on the unused answerscripts returned to the Bhopal regional centre. The panel also observed many examples of two different types of handwriting in a single answerscript.
Mysterious bank deposits
On August 10, the regional director of the NIOS Guwahati centre received an email from an ‘R P Singh’ asking for the mobile number of an employee. A scrutiny of the bank account of the employee later found several deposits, amounting to Rs 4,91,600, credited to it between May 9 and June 23, from Mayur Vihar in Delhi. The deposits were disproportionate to the employee’s income, the probe committee observed.
Curious composition of candidates
The committee found it strange that a majority of the candidates registered to appear at the examination centres in Sehore, Ratlam and Umaria were from Punjab or Odisha. According to sources, the panel felt that this was strange as one would expect the registration list to reflect the local population.
The three-member panel that conducted the preliminary probe included Professor Mazhar Asif, chairman of the regional advisory committee at the NIOS Guwahati centre; Professor Pawan Kumar Sharma, chairman of the regional centre advisory committee at the NIOS Bhopal centre; and Dr Babli Choudhury, member of the regional centre advisory committee at the NIOS Guwahati centre.