How UP exam reforms forced over a million ‘fraudulent’ candidates to call it quits

It may be a while before Uttar Pradesh’s education board rids itself of the “examination fraud” taint, but officials believe the newly introduced reforms are a step in the right direction.

Board Exams 2018 Updated: Mar 01, 2018 17:26 IST
Kenneth John
Kenneth John
Hindustan Times, Allahabad
UP board exam,UP boards 2018,Yogi Adityanath
Students coming out after appearing in the UP board exams 2018 at a Centre in Noida on Tuesday. (Sunil Ghosh / HT file)

It may be a while before Uttar Pradesh’s education board rids itself of the “examination fraud” taint, but officials believe the newly introduced reforms are a step in the right direction.

The BJP government led by Yogi Adityanath had spelt out cleansing the state board – known as the Madhyamik Shiksha Parishad – as one of its chief priorities after coming to power last year. Deputy chief minister Dinesh Sharma, who also holds the portfolio of secondary education minister, then announced measures such as installation of CCTV cameras at 8,057 examination centres, virtual allocation of exam centres and online registration of candidates to ensure that “free-and-fair examinations” were held across the state in collaboration with the special task force.

These measures, however, gave rise to major repercussions. As many as 2,89,308 candidates dropped out on the first day of the examinations (February 6), and six days later, the number had swelled to 10,54,992 – 15.89% of the 66,37,018 registered examinees.

“This bulk exodus of examinees shows that many candidates were relying on fraudulent means to pass. Students who attend classes and study for their examinations will not give up that easily. Even if they fail to do well in one or two examinations, they will strive to make up in the rest,” said Uttar Pradesh Madhyamik Shikshak Sangh (UPMSS) general secretary Lal Mani Diwedi.

The teachers’ association official claimed that all such candidates were “prepaid degree-seekers” who managed to infiltrate the board’s registration process but failed to execute their plans due to safeguards instituted by the administration. “They had no option but to quit because they were largely depending on fraudulent means to pass,” he said.

UPMSS (Allahabad unit) president Sunil Kumar Shukla sought action against all such offenders. “Who exactly are these copying mafia leaders? Do they infiltrate the examination system from outside, or are they already ingrained in it? The Madhyamik Shiksha Parishad should identify such elements and make an example out of them,” he said.

According to Abhay Awasthi, Congress district unit officer-bearer and former Allahabad University students union leader, the “copying mafia” has been calling the shots in the state board examinations for years due to corruption in the Uttar Pradesh education board’s machinery. “These people use both money and muscle to sully the system. First, they get their colleges affiliated to the board. Then, once their institutions are made examination centres, they get fake candidates registered in exchange for hefty bribes. Crores of rupees change hands – with candidates from Uttar Pradesh shelling out anywhere between Rs 8,000 and Rs 20,000, and those from other states paying a little more,” he said.

Awasthi also wanted the government to investigate candidates who dropped out, so as to get to the root of the fraud allegedly perpetrated by private schools.

A clerk with the district inspector of schools’ office in Allahabad claimed that the rot runs deep in the state’s education system. “Everything here is on sale – be it educational degrees, contracts pertaining to the board’s functioning, allocation of examination centres, granting of affiliation or appointment of teachers and other staffers. One government cannot fix everything. This problem is as old as the board’s existence, and it has only worsened over the years,” he said on the condition of anonymity.

Madhyamik Shiksha Parishad secretary Neena Srivastava said the authorities may consider investigating the “quitters” once the examination process is completed. “We could even check their attendance levels in class, so as to gauge if these candidates were solely dependent on unfair means to pass the examinations,” she added.

Srivastava insisted that the anti-fraud measures implemented by the state government were starting to yield results. “The large number of dropouts only goes to show that our attempts at holding free-and-fair examinations are working,” she said.

Official records with the board reveal that as many as 6,75,701 candidates (4,18,419 high school and 2,57,282 intermediate students) decided to quit in view of strict measures enforced at examination centres in 2015, while 6,45,025 dropped out in 2016. The number stood at 5,35,494 examinees last year.

The Uttar Pradesh education board had barred 1,277 principals from being appointed as centre superintendents for high school and intermediate examinations in February 2016, after rampant cheating was witnessed the previous academic year. The action was taken on the basis of reports filed by flying squads affiliated to the board. Meerut region saw the maximum number of principals barred at 506, Allahabad at 348, Varanasi at 328, and Bareilly at 95.

According to board officials, more than 6.4 million regular and 1.8 million private students appeared for this year’s examinations. However, over 1.47 million dropped out in the first few days.

First Published: Feb 13, 2018 19:44 IST