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Anonymous caller, letter and question paper on Twitter: How CBSE leak surfaced in 13 days

Rumours of CBSE leak began with an anonymous caller claiming the Class 12 accountancy paper was leaked two day’s before the exam. The Board on Wednesday announced retests in two subjects -- Class 12 Economics paper and Class 10 Mathematics paper -- after reports of paper leak.

education Updated: Mar 30, 2018 11:23 IST
Shiv Sunny
Shiv Sunny
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
CBSE paper leak,CBSE leak,CBSE board exams
Students protest against the announcement of re-examinations of the leaked CBSE papers, near Jantar Mantar in New Delhi.(Anushree Fadnavis/HT Photo)

The first murmurs about the leak of a CBSE exam paper began when the police control room in Rohini received a phone call about the Class 12 accountancy paper being leaked on March 13, two days before the subject’s examination.

The caller told the police that his tuition friend had offered to sell him the question paper for Rs 4,000. Rajneesh Gupta, deputy commissioner of police (Rohini), said that efforts to track the caller failed as he switched off his mobile and the address given for his SIM card verification was incomplete. The complaint was shelved without much probe.

When pictures of 10 pages of the accounts paper were allegedly circulated on WhatsApp, minutes before the exam was to begin on March 15, it sent authorities in a huddle. The photos being circulated were eerily similar to the questions in set 2 of the accounts paper. A tweet by Delhi’s education minister Manish Sisodia appeared to confirm the leak. But by late afternoon that day, the CBSE dismissed the possibility of a leak saying the seals on all question papers were found to be intact.

So, when the CBSE received an unusual fax at 4.22pm on March 23, they first believed it to be a mischief, police said. The fax, from an “unknown” source, informed that a tuition centre owner in central Delhi’s Rajendra Nagar was involved in the paper leak. The fax sender named two schools in Rajendra Nagar who were involved in the crime.

The complaint was forwarded to the CBSE’s regional office the next day. The regional office in turn passed on the complaint to a police inspector through WhatsApp, CBSE’s regional director told police in his statement.

On being asked why the CBSE did not pursue the case with police more proactively, RP Upadhyay, special commissioner of police (crime), said they had been sharing “inputs with the police from time to time”.

“CBSE has been helping us with the probe,” said Upadhyay.

But another senior investigator said the CBSE officials initially believed the whole thing was a mischief to create rumours. “They thought someone wanted the coaching centre owner to be framed,” said the investigator.

Meanwhile, students in Delhi begun receiving their CBSE Class 12 economics question paper a day before the exam on March 26.

Among the first to bring the alleged leak to public knowledge was Ravindra Nath Jha, a man who on his Twitter bio says that he “loves teaching economics”. Drawing attention of authorities, Jha began tweeting images of the economics question paper at 10.21am on March 26. HT tried to contact Nath for more details, but got no response.

The same day at 6pm, an unaddressed envelope was received at the CBSE Academic Unit in Delhi’s Rouse Avenue. According to CBSE’s statement, the envelope contained pages of hand-written answers to that day’s economics paper. The handwritten answers prompted the CBSE to approach the Delhi Police the next day, March 27. The Delhi Police’s crime branch quickly registered an FIR under three Indian Penal Code sections: criminal breach of trust, cheating, criminal conspiracy. The coaching centre owner was picked up for questioning.

Even as the police questioned the man, some other tuition centre owners and several students alleged that the CBSE Class 10 maths paper too had been allegedly leaked, a day before the exam on March 28. A Twitter account that shares CBSE-related issues posted four hand-written pages of the maths question paper at 11.30pm on March 27, over 10 hours before the exam began.

This Twitter account too caught the attention of the authorities, especially when the maths questions the next day was found to be the same as those that had been previously shared. By afternoon of March 28, the CBSE had approached the police with another complaint about the maths paper leak and a separate FIR was registered.

According to Upadhyay, it has been established that both the papers were leaked at least one day before the exams were conducted. The investigators have so far questioned 34 persons.

the CBSE PAPER trail
The question papers’ leak has prompted officials to announce a shift to a new system. Here is how CBSE currently gets a question paper into its students’ hands:
Around July, the CBSE’s Academic Unit creates a subject-wise plan for that academic session’s question paper: the topics to be focussed upon and the number of easy, moderate and difficult questions
The plan is sent to subject paper-setters, who draw up a bank of questions accordingly. They create roughly 60 questions for each category – easy, moderate and tough
No paper-setter knows which questions will be selected
Questions are sent to moderators, whovet them for consistency with respect to the blueprint and syllabus. By August, they create three sets–A, B and C–among which questions may or may not be different – and three subsets of each (A1, A2, A3...) in which the order of questions are rejigged
All sets are hand-written, making any leak identifiable
The board sends an unpredictable combination of sets to be printed by ‘security printers’. The printers are spread across country and are given an exact quota based on the centres they will cater to. They print no more or less thanthe number of examinees
People involved in this step have no way of guessing which set will make it
A week before the exam, the printed setsare put in sealed boxes and sent to designated banks close to clustersof exam centres
Papers are in sealed boxes and kept in bank strongholds
On the morning of the exam, CBSE invigilators dispatched to each centre receive by SMS the details of which set to pick up from the bank. An hour before the exam, the invigilator and several guards bring the set to the centre
Guards accompany the invigilator
Roughly 15 minutes before the examination, the seals are broken and papers are taken out for distribution in examination halls
Guards accompany the invigilator
Vulnerable stages
According to officials, sets are most vulnerable at the time of being printed and while being picked up from banks
WHO THEY ARE
Paper-setters: 20-25 experts for each subject. They can be school or college teachers and can include retired professionals
Moderators: 4-5 experts, separate from paper-setters. They too are subject experts, and can be either current or retired teachers/professors
Printers: Identified only as security printers, these are agencies associated with the board for several years. Details withheld for security.
Text: Neelam Pandey, Heena Kausar

First Published: Mar 30, 2018 09:13 IST