When it comes to mass cheating during examinations in Bhind district of Madhya Pradesh, government officials appear helpless. Some blame teachers while others hold guardians responsible for the unabated use of unfair means in board examinations.
A visit by Hindustan Times to several examination centres on March 12 revealed how widespread cheating is, and the role played by relatives of candidates, who gather outside centres with guide books and other materials and even fill in answer sheets.
Deepak Kumar Pandey, the district education officer of Bhind, blamed the family of candidates for the cheating.
"I think guardians are responsible for the current situation. There is no reason for a guardian to remain at the examination centre for a full three hours, that too armed," he said.
Pandey cited several incidents of violence by guardians at examination centres during visits by flying squads. "These people do not allow the squad to enter centres. The (district) collector’s team has been assaulted. Policemen were manhandled, all by guardians," he said.
Some officials blame teachers for failing to stop the use of unfair means, but Prahlad Sikarwar, a retired teacher, pointed out that they were often helpless because of threats.
"Today teachers are the most vulnerable lot. These poor creatures are threatened with dire consequences if they take any action," said Sikarwar.
Teachers are often sent to schools far from their homes for invigilation duties without any security, he said. "How can one expect such hapless creatures to take action against anyone? He would be roughed up every day if he develops animosity with anyone," added Sikarwar.
The principal of a government school, who spoke on condition of anonymity, held the "education mafia" responsible for the cheating.
"Everybody knows there is stiff competition between private schools, and school managements give guarantees to parents that their children will pass the board exams," the principal said.
Parents are known to pay as much as Rs 15,000 to the management of private schools to ensure that students pass tests and the schools "adopt all measures" to make this happen, he said.
Officials and teachers have several suggestions to cope with the dire situation.
"Mass copying on such a scale happens only in Bhind and general measures won’t work here. One needs an area-specific strategy to counter this menace," said the principal of a state-run school.
Objective type questions should be completely done away with and three or four sets of question papers should be prepared so that every classroom has different sets of papers, teachers suggested.
"If the district administration wants, it can stop mass copying in one go. I remember one collector who was successful in containing cheating. He ensured that students wrote exams in the schools where they studied. He ordered that the recognition of a school was to be cancelled if reports of mass copying proved true," said an official. But these norms changed when the collector was transferred.
Pandey said Bhind had become infamous for "exam tourism" or the phenomenon of students from far off places coming to the district to appear for tests because of the widespread copying. "This should stop immediately. The mass copying increases during exams for Diploma in Education and Bachelor of Education as students from all over India come here to pass with flying colours," he said.