Cheating in tests in Bhind town of Madhya Pradesh has evolved into a well-organised racket that often involves relatives of candidates, who gather at examination centres to ensure their wards turn in perfect answer sheets.
School education minister Paras Jain had recently said that board examinations should be celebrated like festivals. But he certainly did not have in mind the festival-like atmosphere that accompanies the rigging of examinations in Bhind.
It is common in Bhind for elders and well-wishers to offer illegal help to their wards in writing tests. Guide books and other materials are readied and male guardians, often armed, accompany students to the examination centres in the district.
When this Hindustan Times correspondent went to Akoda Mod to get a first-hand view of arrangements for the English test for Class 12 on March 12, he spotted more than 100 people on the road near an examination centre at Mahakal Vidyalya.
The school’s main gate was closed but a group of people could be seen writing in a nearby field while some men stood guard with ‘lathis’ in their hands.
Local sources said the people writing in the fields were filling answer sheets for candidates inside the centre.
When this correspondent tried to take photographs of the people in the field, the lathi-wielding men forced the HT team to move on.
A huge crowd was also spotted outside another examination centre at Umri.
Two boys perched on the centre’s boundary wall were supplying materials to candidates inside through a window while a dozen others stood in nearby fields with books and guides.
A little later, a book flew out the window and local residents explained that it had served its purpose.
Though nothing unusual could be spotted at an examination centre in Nayagaon village, local residents laughed and told this correspondent to go inside.
A policeman at the gate of the centre stopped us and said we could not enter the school even after we indentified ourselves as members of the media.
The constable shouted: “CS sahib, media wale aye hain, (centre superintendent sahib, media persons have come).”
By the time we reached the centre’s inner gate about 100 meters from the main gate, the centre superintendent arrived as books and papers were hurriedly flung out of windows.
The CS tried to engage us in a conversation but we insisted on visiting the classrooms.
An uneasy calm prevailed in the classrooms and the students were only waiting for us to leave, watching us instead of writing their answers. In one classroom, a teacher was spotted throwing a paper out of a window.
He claimed with a smile that it was a tobacco wrapper.
But a peek through the window revealed a pile of papers lying outside.
As this correspondent left the centre about 10 minutes later, cheers could clearly be heard from inside the building.