A Punjab Vigilance Bureau (VB) preliminary inquiry has revealed selective leaks of question papers of recruitment tests for gazetted and non-gazetted officers by an organised gang. The paper’s price is Rs 20 to Rs 30 lakh.
The appointment of 682 persons selected on the basis of one such entrance test conducted by Panjab University (PU) in November 2015 on behalf of the department of local bodies has been put on hold. The PU has also been barred from holding further tests for the Punjab government. “We have directed the VB to bring all those involved in the scam to book,” Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal told HT.
“The recruitment test conducted for patwaris is also under the scanner as we have received a complaint,” added Sukhbir.
The probe, being monitored by the offices of the chief minister and the deputy chief minister, points to the selective leaking of question papers — to a handful of candidates, who then sell off the paper further to other candidates. The bureau has questioned members of the PU staff and four candidates, all among the toppers in the test.
Other than putting on hold the recruitment of 682 persons--including subdivisional officers (SDOs) and junior engineers (JEs)--the university has been barred from holding the second test for selecting 1,200 patwaris. The first test to shortlist candidates is over already.
The staff at the University Institute of Applied Management Sciences (UIAMS), which has been conducting these examinations for the Punjab government since 2008, denies that question papers were leaked out. UIAMS chief coordinator Pradeep Sharma said, “Ours system is foolproof but since an inquiry is on, we’ll cooperate with the VB.”
Candidates turn into conduits
The Punjab vigilance bureau’s probe into a November 2015 entrance test conducted by Panjab University, Chandigarh, on behalf of the state government points to the shocking possibility of a few candidates--who managed to procure the leaked question paper--themselves becoming conduits and further leaking questions to other candidates.
The university conducted the test on behalf of the department of local bodies. The department had advertised 682 posts (including SDOs and JEs) in July 2015. More than 76,000 candidates applied for the test. The applications were invited online and the written examination was conducted at several centres across the state.
Investigation into the scam began last month when a resident of Kollianwali village in Muktsar district complained to chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, saying his ward--who had appeared in the entrance test--had received an offer for “sure-shot” recruitment as an SDO for Rs 30 lakh. The complainant said a set of candidates were taken to Lucknow by the kingpin where the question papers were leaked.
Discreet investigations, ordered by the CM, revealed that a set of candidates had indeed gone to Lucknow together a few days before the examination, and on reaching there, their mobile phones were switched off. Further inquiries said the candidates who were placed in the first 20 positions in the merit, had virtually identical answer sheets and had even made the same mistakes in answering some questions. Background check of these candidates showed that many of those who topped the test had barely managed to pass their engineering degree.
Converted into a full-fledged vigilance probe earlier this month, investigations have found that while at least three candidates went to Lucknow, another dozen had accessed the question paper before the examination through one of the candidates who went to Lucknow. The common mobile number that all the candidates were in touch with belongs to a resident of Sangrur who was called for questioning by the VB earlier this week.
The VB has now approached the university to further connect the dots and probe the source of the leak. PU vice-chancellor Arun Grover was called for a joint meeting with the vigilance bureau by chief secretary Sarvesh Kaushal earlier this week and was explained the seriousness of the situation.
“The entire examination process is in the PU’s hands. We do not have anything to do with conducting the test. We only advertise the posts and when the process of selection is over we are given the merit list by the PU,” said Priyank Bharti, director, local bodies. He said that other than the 682 posts being filled, this department had earlier used the PU’s services to fill 329 posts in 2014-15 and another 50 in 2013. “But then, the process had seemed fair. For this recruitment we have the result but have been asked not to issue appointment letters,” he said.
University Institute of Applied Management Sciences (UIAMS), that conducts the tests, said there is no possibility of leakage. “We follow a secret process of setting the paper and sealing it. Last year’s question papers are used by private preparatory academies to create question banks,” said Pradeep Sharma, chief coordinator, UIAMS.
He said the UIAMS had been conducting examinations for the Punjab government since 2008. “We have recruited over 2,500 people for Punsup, PUDA, food and civil supplies, and excise and taxation departments and there has never been any complaint.”