Plugging a monumental leak

Plugging a monumental leak

A series of II PU question paper leaks has caused a major embarrassment to the government and the department concerned, with more than one investigating agency probing the scandal. A deeper look into the various aspects of the shameful episode.

Picture this: Twelve private transport trucks parked haphazardly at the Government Boys’ Pre-University College, Malles­wa­ram.

Grim-looking officers of the Department of Pre-University Education (DPUE) loitering around carrying greenish-blue envelopes.

The covers, apparently containing question papers, were to be taken away in the trucks from this distribution centre to the various examination centres across the State.

For lakhs of II PU students anxiously waiting to complete their crucial annual examinations, this clearly “unguarded” scene with no security in sight (as a Deccan Herald team discovered) should have triggered a lot more questions about the paper leakages that have turned the examination schedule topsy-turvy.

The scene was being played out on March 25, just days before the physics paper, the second in a span of three days, had leaked, exposing chinks in the system.

It may not be not easy to change at short notice the means the department has
employed to distribute papers for years. But it is not certain if it is really difficult to enhance supervision so as to prevent such incidents.

No surprises then for the investigators to keep a close watch on DPUE officers, strongly suspecting their role in the leakage. The DPUE feels targeted in more than one sense. But not much is being done to change this image. An image of a systemic failure.

For, it has already come to light that it was not only the mathematics and physics papers, as is being maintained officially, that leaked. All the science stream papers, including biology and chemistry, had leaked. Even English.

It has not been an easy task for Rashmi V Mahesh, the Commissioner of DPUE. Dealing with an issue of such a magnitude is not something she had imagined. That there is a lobby working against her does not help.

And with all this confusion, the investigating agencies — the Central Crime Branch (CCB) and the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) — are left with several leads to follow, making the process of investigation more time consuming.

For the CCB, an accurate establishment of the network of racketeers suspected to be involved in question paper leaks remains elusive, as it is yet to ‘properly’ examine officials from the DPUE owing to the ongoing examinations.

But following the leads obtained in the course of the investigation, the CCB has now found itself going to Goa and Andhra Pradesh as two of the prime suspects are understood to have crossed the borders of Karnataka.

Ajay Kumar and Shashikala, nabbing whom the CCB believes will provide the probable missing link, have remained elusive shifting places constantly.

A senior CCB official told Deccan Herald: “We have information that they have gone to Goa and/or AP. But we are closing in on them... the case is making progress.”

The CCB is probing different cases it has registered after the leak of mathematics and physics papers.

The official added they were waiting for the DPUE officers to complete the conduct of examinations before they could thoroughly examine them. “We do not want to create any inconvenience to students. We are waiting for the exams to be completed before beginning our examination of officials from the DPUE,” the officer said.

The CCB also needs to examine some of the students who had received the leaked papers, even which, it claims can be done only after the examinations are over. The CID, on the other hand, has examined 15 people in connection with the case, and senior officials said they were closing in on the suspects and the source at which the papers might have leaked. (See illustration to know the various points where the leak could have happened).

Besides, the agency had also sent a team led by an SP-rank officer to Kolkata where the DPUE prints its question papers. It is likely that the CID will seek the co-operation of the Kolkata Police to probe the matter and find out if the printing press in that city was involved in the racket.

Preliminary investigations suggest many knew the particular printing press, leading to suspicion that the papers were compromised at that end, before they reached Bangalore and other parts of Karnataka.

Also, breaking the protocol, several senior and middle-level employees from the DPUE commissioner’s office were aware where the question papers were being printed for the last six years, alarming the investigating agencies.

According to a senior DPUE official, only the commissioner knows where the papers are printed.

“Once a commissioner is transferred, or s/he retires, the information pertaining to the printing press is passed on to his/her successor in person.

“There is no involvement of any third party,” the official said. However, the investigators have found otherwise.

The government has taken the matter seriously and both the chief minister and the Minister for Primary and Secondary Education have maintained that the guilty, regardless of their rank, will be punished.

However, for the DPUE, it is time for some introspection, a time to look into the flaws in the system that might have led to such sorry state of affairs.

While the officials in the DPUE commissioner’s office are under suspicion, information with the state Intelligence Bureau (IB) points to the probable involvement of some officers who presently do not work at the headquarters.

Sources in the IB said the number of reforms ushered in by Rashmi might have worked against her. Whatever might be the reason, the department has to find a footing to avoid itself being in a similar situation in the next academic year.

And one of the things the department needs to focus is the way the distribution of question papers is done.

One of the options might be to get rid of private trucks employed for the process. And in what might be of some help, the Postal Department - which delivers question papers of examinations conducted by the Union Public Service Commission and the Central Board of Secondary Education can ensure a fool-proof system.

K Prakash, Director, Postal Services (Mail Business), had met Rashmi V Mahesh earlier last week and explained to her the details of India Post’s question paper delivery service.
Till a solution comes by, students have to place their trust in the department.

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