A day before the Applied Chemistry paper was held on May 28, first-year engineering student Sahana Ghosh (name changed) got a call from a friend.
The friend hadn’t called for last-minute revisions, but for a last-minute sale. He claimed to have the next day’s exam paper with him and was willing to sell it. His price? Rs12,000. “He said I could make a group of friends and everyone could chip in,” said Ghosh, who eventually did not buy the paper.
Ever since the first-year engineering exams began on May 18, till the university put strict security measures in place from May 28, students were swapping images of leaked papers and photocopies, and cash.
The trail expanded in multiple levels, with every student who laid hands on a question paper trying to sell it to others to recover the cost. The price could range from Rs100 at the fringes of the circle to several thousands, claimed students.
Students would usually pay for the paper once they had actually written the exam. “If you get the same paper, then you pay, otherwise you don’t,” said a student. In some cases, students made a down payment before they wrote the exam. In such situations, they said, it was a calculated risk. Others referred to urban legends of agents selling papers at railway stations. You had to know the right people, they claimed.
The pass percentage of first-year engineering students is usually between 30% and 40%.
Principals say this was one of the reasons why paper leaks were so rampant. “Parents and students in the first year are desperate,” said a principal. “Passing is difficult, people are worried about the social stigma, and so they try to buy the system.”