Navy police have busted an alleged racket in the recruitment process of the armed forces, including the Navy, Coast Guard and the Army, after seven candidates were caught with identical chits of answer keys during an exam at INS Shivaji in Lonavala. The primary probe has led to the arrest of a suspected racketeer in Ahmednagar and points to the involvement of both serving and retired Navy and Coast Guard personnel.
The alleged racket came to light when seven candidates, appearing for the Senior Secondary Recruitment (SSR) process for the Navy on Tuesday, were caught with identical chits of answer keys written on them. The chits were found during routine checks of the candidates.
INS Shivaji, a premier technical training institute of the Indian Navy located in Lonavala, is one of the exam centres where the exam is being conducted till Friday in batches. All the seven candidates were from surrounding villages of Nimblak.
When they were detained and questioned, they revealed the name of one Prakash Kotkar, a resident of Nimblak village in Ahmednagar district. Initial investigation revealed that Kotkar had taken Rs 3-5 lakh from each candidate and given them the keys to the multiple-choice question paper.
A team of the Navy police, deployed at INS Shivaji and led by Assistant Regulating Officer O P Singh, conducted an overnight search operation in the village, based on the details given by one of the candidates. Kotkar was arrested and brought to INS Shivaji for further probe and an incident was registered with the Navy police.
Sources said while the answer key seized from the candidates did not match the key sequence of the questions on the day, the fact that they were identical was sufficient for them to continue the investigation. Kotkar’s interrogation has led Naval authorities to crucial leads, which are being further investigated.
The probe has pointed to several persons involved in the racket, including serving and retired personnel from the Navy and Coast Guard.
“By providing answer keys, Kotkar had facilitated recruitment of three persons in the Coast Guard and two in the Army in the past… there are more racketeers whose names and primary details are being revealed, including a relative of Kotkar’s. These names are being investigated and the crucial part of the probe will be to ascertain whether there is any leak of question papers. The racket is potentially compromising the recruitment process in the armed forces,” said a Navy police staffer.
Navy police officials said at present, the racket seemed to have a statewide presence and there was a possibility of the involvement of owners of coaching classes, which prepare students for recruitment examination in government services.
As part of the procedure, Kotkar was handed over to the Lonavala city police. “After Navy police handed over Kotkar to us, he was presented before the Vadgaon Maval Magistrate court. A report from Navy police and one from Lonavala police was presented before the court. The court ordered that Kotkar be detained in Yerawada jail till the exam process was over… till Friday evening.” said an officer from Lonavala city police.