At Ground Zero of Bihar toppers scam: 844 students on paper, 2 in school

An investigation by The Indian Express tracked at least 25 such institutions in eight districts.

Written by Santosh Singh | Vaishali / Muzaffarpur | Updated: July 29, 2016 10:56:18 am
bihar, bihar scam, bihar board exam scam, topper scam, bihar topper scam, bihar school topper scam, bihar school exam scam, bihar exam scam, exam scam, indian express investigation, indian express bihar exam scam investigation, corruption in examnination board, corrupt examination grading, bihar exam grading corruption, jd(u), rjd, jd(u) rjd government, bihar government, struggle to answer questions, bseb, indian express news, india news, bihar news, bihar education scam news Frames of benches and desks at Balaji Inter Mahavidyalaya in Panapur, Muzaffarpur. (Express Photo: Santosh Singh)

“I have never seen a single student or teacher here… Can’t you see the cloudy weather, the students will come… This is just a centre for students to fill their Class XII exam forms.”

Nothing illustrates the decay in Bihar’s examination and affiliation system for plus-two schools than these voices from Muzaffarpur and Vaishali, the Ground Zero of the “toppers scam”. One that first came to light last month after three state toppers from Vishun Rai College in Vaishali failed to answer elementary questions on camera, leaving the JD(U)-RJD government red-faced.

An investigation by The Indian Express tracked at least 25 such institutions in eight districts and, apart from those telling soundbytes, came across some startling visuals, too: one plus-two school was home to a three-member family in Vaishali, another in Muzaffarpur had 844 students on paper but only two present on a working day.

MUZAFFARPUR

Only 1 classroom

Plus-Two Vidyalaya, Pansalva Chowk, Motipur
# Owned by Santosh Kumar Singh, lawyer

Adjoining a stretch of National Highway-28 in Motipur, is a rust-smudged signboard that leads to an “inter-college” housed in four tin-roofed rooms with their doors locked and with a dusty, unplastered verandah. A glance through the window of one of the rooms, labelled as a classroom, shows there are no desks or benches inside. The other rooms were labelled as a lab, a principal’s office and a staff room.

It’s a working day but local residents say they have never seen a student or a teacher here even though this “inter-college” was granted fresh affiliation by the Bihar School Examination Board (BSEB) for the 2016-18 session. The signboard says the college is owned by Santosh Kumar Singh, a lawyer. But he could not be reached on the mobile phone number listed on the board.

Keshav Kumar Rai, a resident of neighbouring Marsandi village, said: “I have never seen a single student or teacher here. I can’t imagine that the Bihar government has not seen through such fraud despite the prominent location of this structure near the National Highway.”

No sign of classes

Raghunath Sah Inter College, Harchanda
# Owned by Sujit Kumar, a local JD(U) leader

A marble slab at Harchanda village, about 15 km from Muzaffarpur town, states that this inter-college was inaugurated by former deputy mayor Vivek Kumar on May 25, 2015. BSEB records show that the college was granted affiliation in 2016, paving the way for admission of students. But on a working day, there is hardly any sign to show this college was functional.

There are no walls around the roughly 1,400-sq-ft compound, which has a gate supported by cement pillars. On one side are seven rooms, marked as classrooms, a laboratory, a principal’s room and a staff room, apart from a toilet — all of them were shut. Inside the classrooms, on unplastered floors, are some desks and benches — and a few plastic sacks. The white, outer walls of these rooms have been freshly painted with the name of the college written in black in the front.

“This is just a centre for students to fill up their Class XII exam forms and get their certificates,” said a resident of Harchanda, who requested anonymity.

The inter-college is owned by a Muzaffarpur-based JD (U) leader, Sujit Kumar, who is also its secretary.

While Kumar was not available for comment, Muzaffarpur district education officer S N Kanth said: “The Harchanda school is one of the six we are inspecting. Our district programme officer will soon visit these schools and submit a report on its infrastructure, number of students and teachers.”

A 2-student day

Balaji Inter Mahavidyalaya, Panapur
# Run by a governing body headed by Ramanand Prasad Singh, a lawyer

BSEB records show that this inter-college enrolled 844 students for the 2015-17 session — arts (384), science (310) and commerce (150). But around noon on a working day, 30 minutes past scheduled start of classes, only two girls in the commerce section and eight non-teaching staff were present.

The principal Professor Rajendra Kumar was absent, said Ranjay Kumar, the head clerk who also claimed to be one of the founding members of the college.

Minutes after The Indian Express arrived, a woman who identified herself as a history teacher walked in, saying she had been told that “someone had come for an inspection.”

One of the two students, Shivani Kumari from Badkagaon village, said: “I stay 20 km away and don’t attend classes regularly because my family cannot afford the daily transportation cost (Rs 40).” Asked why she chose this college, Kumari said: “It’s in the vicinity and my parents said the commerce course was good for learning to handle accounts.”

Her classmate Chanchal Kumari, from neighbouring Raksh village, said she was not a regular, either. Both the students said they were yet to see their teacher despite having enrolled last year. The other classrooms had empty benches and blank blackboards.

Head clerk Kumar said the college came up in 1984 and offered an arts course until it got permission to add science and commerce streams from the 2014-16 session. “Many students don’t come every day because they can’t afford the bus fare of Rs 20-30. But we have at least 40 per cent attendance daily.”

When it was pointed out that only two students were present, Kumar said: “Can’t you see the cloudy weather, the students will come.”

Asked whether the school followed basic BSEB affiliation criteria — at least 2 acres of land, capacity to house 350-plus students, library with at least 500 books, labs for different subjects — Kumar said: “Our construction is on 1.5 acres and we have additional land separated by a private plot. The college has 18 teachers of which eight to 10 are regular.”

Kumar claimed the college had “good results” in 2016 with 228 first-divisions, 319 second-divisions, eight third-divisions and 281 failures in arts; 98 first-divisions, 166 second-divisions, three third-divisions and 56 failures in science; 10 first-divisions, 58 second-divisions, six third-divisions and 48 failures in commerce.

No student, no teacher

Hiralal Rai Uchhtar Madhyamik Vidyalaya, Prabhat Nagar
# Run by Manoj Kumar Yadav, school director

This school is located in a double-storey building without any signboad. The school director, Manoj Kumar Yadav, was not present but his assistant Manish Kumar said the school got affiliation in 2015 to admit 120 students each for arts, science and commerce courses.
But there was no student or teacher present on a working day. Kumar refused to provide details of the number of students or give permission to visit the classrooms and labs. Director Yadav said over phone later: “I cannot provide details of admissions but we have started construction on 10 katha of land and met other conditions. I have named this school after my father, we will have a signboard soon.”

***

VAISHALI

Home to a family

Bindu Singh Kanya Uchhtar Madhyamik Vidyalaya, Bhagwanpur
# Owned by Bindu Singh, a businessman

The main gate is locked. From a side gate, you can see a woman and her small daughter inside. The woman conveys through her daughter that her husband is away, before shutting the door.

Meghnad Sharma, who stays in a house in front of the school, said: “We see some students coming but don’t know who owns it”. According to records, this seven-room school, run by the Bindu Singh Educational Trust, was granted affiliation in October 2014.

Waiting for inspection

UPS plus-two school, Pranpur Berai
# Owned by R P Singh, a plywood trader

Run by the Rampyari Memorial Trust, this school was granted affiliation this year but has not yet enrolled any student in plus-two classes.

Jaynath Kumar, a member of the governing body, said: “We have not started admissions yet because inspections are being conducted following the scam. We are waiting for officials to inspect our school. We have 18 rooms in a three-storey building and 12 toilets. We have labs with all apparatus and 15 teachers.”

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