Five exam papers were leaked in five days in the ongoing HSC exams — Mathematics and Statistics on Monday, Secretarial Practice and Physics last Saturday and Marathi last Thursday.
So, where is the leak happening and how can it be plugged?
Experts said the consecutive paper leaks show there are loopholes in the last mile of the process — between the time the papers are picked up from the custody centres (where they are stored before the exam) and before they are distributed to students in classrooms. The board needs to review this part of the process and come up with solutions, they said.
The HSC papers usually leak on social media, most commonly on a popular messaging platform, and they all happen within an hour before the exam begins. Such paper leaks on social media first began on March 10, 2015, with the Book-Keeping and Accountancy paper coming out minutes before the exam. It happened again on March 4, 2016.
Experts said the pre-examination process, when the paper is set and printed, is secretive and sufficiently secure. But every case of a leak so far points to lapses in the final stages of the process — when the question papers make their way to the students’ desk.
A former board member pointed out how alarmingly the level of security falls once the papers leave the custody centres. Custody centres are run by officials from the education inspector’s office, but experts said that often, lower-ranked employees are stationed there. “The education inspector’s office is facing an acute staff crunch. There are not enough officers to preside over every centre,” said Uday Nare, former board member and teacher, Hansraj Morarji Public School, Andheri.
When the papers leave the custody centres for the exam centres, teachers appointed as exam conductors are accompanied only by a police constable, a security guard and a peon to ferry the papers. Here’s another loophole. While the papers should be picked up only half-an-hour to 40 minutes before the exam, often, they are handed over as early as 9am for a 11am paper. “Exam conductors take the papers early, saying they want to avoid heavy traffic on the roads,” Nare said.
In the next step of the process, once the sealed bundles reach the centre, they are opened in the presence of two students and the principal, but this process is not recorded. After this, the school or college peons are given the responsibility to take the papers to the classrooms — yet another point where a leak could happen.
In the past cases, centre authorities and supervisors were found to be involved in the incidents. “Despite these cases, the board has not done anything to hold them accountable,” said Nare. “There seem to be many rackets, not just one.”
Board officials also said they suspect their own officers may be guilty as well. “Mobile phones are strictly banned for students and teachers, and the only ones who carry them are board employees or exam controllers,” said Siddheshwar Chandekar, divisional secretary of the board. “We suspect that one of our officers is involved in this.”