It is business as usual in the examination centres across Uttar Pradesh’s Kaushambi district, notorious for mass copying and vending fake certificates.
The malpractice, which is also rampant in other parts of the state, became a major issue during the recently concluded assembly elections with the BJP making it a poll plank against then ruling Samajwadi Party.
None other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi raked up the issue, a fortnight ahead of the board exams, at a poll rally in Gonda, accusing the then ruling dispensation of patronising ‘copying mafia,’ thus playing with the future of the youths of the state.
As the exams get underway, barely weeks after a BJP-government led by Yogi Adityanath is installed in the state, the ‘copying mafias’ are back in full force, undeterred by the change of guard in Lucknow.
There are reports of unabated use of unfair means in all the 112 examination centres across Kaushambi, where around 43,000 candidates are appearing for the high school and the intermediate examinations conducted by the Madhyamik Shiksha Parishad, commonly referred as the UP Board.
Only five students have been booked so far for cheating and three centres have been debarred from holding the tests since the commencement of examinations on March 16.
Similar reports of copying have also been received from centres in Aligarh, Pratapgarh, Mathura, Ghazipur, Ballia and Jaunpur among others, despite the board’s claim of taking a slew of measures to curb the menace.
In the 31 districts identified as sensitive, the board provided coded answer sheets to check the unfair practice. These districts include Aligarh, Agra, Mathura, Hathras, Etah, Mainpuri, Firozabad, Kasganj, Shahjahanpur, Badayaun, Moradabad, Sambhal, Allahabad, Kaushambi, Hardoi, Kanpur Nagar, Kanpur Dehat, Fatehpur, Chitrakoot, Ghazipur, Azamgarh, Ballia, Deoria, Jaunpur, Gonda, Ambedkarnagar, Sultanpur, Bhadohi, Santkabirnagar, Sidharthnagar and Kushinagar.
Steps to check cheating
Besides, the digital admit cards have been issued to avoid cases of impersonation; parents and outsiders are barred inside the exam centres and a three-tier security system, with deployment of flying squad, has been put in place at the centres.
The board has also set multiple question papers with the same difficulty level to prevent mass cheating.
These measures, however, proved ineffective in dissuading the well entrenched copying cartels active in many districts, as the reports of the mass copying pouring in from various centres suggest.
Board officials termed these reports as “stray incidents”, insisting the measures taken by them have put a check on the use of unfair means this year.
To buttress the claim, Komal Yadav, district inspector of schools (Allahabad), pointed out that within 10 days of the commencement of the twin examinations, over five lakh students did not turn up to take the test.
Indicating that these students have skipped the examinations realising they won’t be able to cheat, Yadav claimed non-attendance of such a large number of examinees is a manifestation of the success of the measures.
- Digital admit card is issued to the students to avoid cases of impersonation
- Parents or outsiders are not allowed inside the exam centres
- A three-tier security system is in place, including visits by flying squads and observers at the centre, to keep a check on activities
- Multiple sets of question papers with the same difficulty level are assigned so that cases like mass cheating can be avoided
- Adequate police security is ensured at the centres.
‘Nakal ki Mandi’
But reports of mass copying emanating from various centres tell a different tale.
Sources in the office of the District Inspector of Schools (DIOS) in Kaushambi said Ajhua, otherwise a nondescript town in Kaushambi, has turned into a ‘Nakal ki Mandi’ (market of copying).
Every examination centre here is “prepaid,” and people from far off places including Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, besides others districts of Uttar Pradesh throng the town to get a high school or intermediate degree without actually toiling for it.
Notwithstanding the measures taken by the board, this thriving business of fake degrees continues to be active even this year, sources in the DIOS admitted.
After Kaushambi was carved out of Allahabad as a separate district in 1994 by the then chief minister Mayawati, it gradually turned into a “copying hub” due to lack of facilities to hold cheating-free examinations, said Mohd Shahid, gram pradhan of Pashchim Sharira village of the district.
“Nearly half of the around 1000 schools under the UP Board in the district exist only in records. No classes are held there. They are just used as centres for holding the high school and intermediate examinations every year,” he added.
As copying mafias continue to rule the roost at numerous centres across the state, students who put in hard labour to prepare for the examinations feel cheated.
“Unscrupulous students manage to get more marks, outperforming honest and hardworking students like us by copying word by word question papers unfairly solved by experts,” rued Himanshi Pandey, a Class 12 student of Allahabad Inter College.
Shivani Tiwari, another Class 12 student of the same institute, pointed out that the menace, besides tarnishing the image of the state, has periled honest candidates’ prospect of higher education as all high-scoring students of the UP board are viewed with suspicion. This also has a demoralising impact on genuine students, Shivani added.
Staring at an uncertain future, hundreds of honest students like Himanshi and Shivani want an end to the farce that has been staged annually at many centres across the state in the name of examinations.