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26 paper leaks in 10 yrs & 14 under its rule, Gehlot govt scrambles to catch culprits as polls near

BJP is demanding CBI probe into paper leaks, Rajasthan Congress's Sachin Pilot says it has become a 'vicious cycle' & Ashok Gehlot-led government needs to do more.

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Jaipur: Twenty-six instances of paper leaks between 2011 and 2022, fourteen of them in the last four years alone — Rajasthan, it seems, is hurtling towards becoming the paper leak capital of India. The latest addition to the list is the REET leak, prompting the Ashok Gehlot-led Congress government to cancel the teachers’ entrance test in December.

On average, Rajasthan saw over three paper leaks every year since 2019, affecting close to 40 lakh students, ThePrint has learned.

An ongoing probe has found that the rate of the leaked papers varied anywhere between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 15 lakh, depending on the recruitment for which the exams were conducted, sources in the Rajasthan Police told ThePrint.

Rajasthan is among the states with a history of paper leaks when it comes to entrance tests held for recruitment to government jobs. Data provided by the Rajasthan Police’s Special Operation Group (SOG) — tasked with investigating a majority of the paper leaks — shows that there were 12 cases of paper leaks between 2011 and 2018.

Gehlot was CM from 2008 to 2013, and the Vasundhara Raje-led BJP government was in power from 2013 to 2018. The Congress returned to power in the state in December 2018.

The issue has snowballed into a major political controversy in Rajasthan, with Congress leader and former deputy CM Sachin Pilot attacking the Gehlot government in an election year for not doing enough to catch the real culprits behind the paper leaks. 

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has also sharpened its attack on the government over its failure to check the frequent cases of paper leaks. 

Opposition leaders allege the leaks are more frequent now. “Lax action has emboldened the paper leak mafia. They’ve become more brazen. In almost all cases since 2019, a majority of those arrested are out on bail,” BJP Rajya Sabha MP Kirodi Lal Meena said.

For over a week now, Meena has been sitting on dharna on the outskirts of Jaipur, demanding a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the paper leaks. BJP MLAs, too, have been demanding it on the floor of the assembly in its ongoing budget session. 

Last week, the Jaipur Development Authority (JDA) took a bulldozer to a coaching centre owned by suspects in the December 2022 REET paper leak on the grounds that it was “illegal encroachment” on government land. But the opposition said this wasn’t enough.

Rattled by the frequency of such cases, the Gehlot government brought in the Rajasthan Public Examination (Measures for Prevention of Unfair Means in Recruitment) Act in April 2022 that provides for stringent punishment, including 10 years in jail and a fine of up to Rs 10 crore, to those convicted of leaking or abetting the leak of question papers. 

However, the question papers for two exams were leaked in the eight months since the law came into effect. These include the Rajasthan Eligibility Examination for Teachers  (REET) for recruitment of second-grade teachers’ conducted by the Rajasthan Public Service Commission which was leaked in Udaipur last December.

The exam was cancelled after the Udaipur Police arrested 45, including 37 students with the leaked question papers. The case is yet to be referred to the SOG and is currently being probed by the Udaipur Police.

Also Read: Yogi not original ‘bulldozer baba’. Gehlot govt’s been giving ‘criminals’ JCB treatment since 2019

‘Printing presses not compromised’

Exam papers leaked in the last four-and-a-half years mostly concerned recruitment to state government jobs, with some even related to Union government.

Entrance tests conducted by the Rajasthan government and later cancelled on account of paper leaks include those for recruitment of police constables, junior engineers, the REET exam in 2021 and then again in 2022, among others.

The REET 2021, for instance, was held to fill up 46,000 posts of teachers. Ten lakh candidates appeared for the test — conducted by the Rajasthan State Madhyamik Board — which was eventually cancelled. 

Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) Ashok Rathore, head of the SOG which is probing about half-a-dozen paper leak cases, told ThePrint that going by the investigation so far, the police believe the printing presses contracted for the exam papers has not been compromised. “The leaks have not happened at the level of the printing press, but mainly at the level of examination centres. There are well-knit gangs that are involved.”  

“Our investigation has shown that the gang has 3-4 layers. The first comprises one or two persons who procure the paper from the exam centre, the second comprises another one or two persons who solve the paper. The solved papers are then handed over to another set of persons who leak them to students before they reach the exam centres,” Rathore said.

Emphasising that the nexus is big, the ADG said 102 people, including the kingpin Ram Kripal, were arrested in the REET 2021 paper leak case — the most number of arrests made so far in a paper leak case by Rajasthan SOG. Kripal ran a coaching centre, which doubled up as his gang’s base of operations.

On the modus operandi, Rathore said Kripal had associates inside the examination centres. Gang members would enter them two-three hours before the exam, open the sealed box in which papers were kept and photocopied them, he added.

“The paper was then given to one of the gang members who solved the questions. The solved answers were then passed by the coaching staff to the candidates who had paid for the leaked paper. It was a small, close-knit network,” said ADGP Rathore.

The SOG has charge-sheeted 90 per cent of those arrested in the REET 2021 case, so far. “Besides the main accused Ram Kripal, we have also arrested candidates who paid money to buy the leaked paper. This will act as a deterrent for students in the future. We want to break the network and restore the confidence of candidates,” Rathore said. 

In the paper leak of the Rajasthan Police Constable Recruitment examination, the SOG has arrested 22 people, including junior-level police staff. 

However, what has come as a challenge for investigators is that the majority of those arrested were able to secure bail. For instance, only 9 of the 22 arrested in the constable exam case are behind bars. SOG officials say they are trying their best to build a water-tight case to ensure that the accused are denied bail. 

Officers in the SOG said they also came across instances where families of candidates sold agricultural land to pay for the leaked paper. 

Oppn, Pilot take aim at Gehlot govt over paper leaks

The spate of paper leaks that have surfaced since the Congress came to power in December 2018 has now snowballed into a major political controversy with the BJP cornering the Ashok Gehlot government over its inaction in the ongoing budget session. The opposition party even boycotted the governor’s address on the first day of the budget session.   

BJP Rajya Sabha MP Kirodi Lal Meena accused the government of taking action against only the small fry. “Who is the kingpin in these cases? Has the police found out? Such frequent paper leaks can’t happen without the complicity of administration and officials,” Meena told ThePrint. 

He even alleged the involvement of senior government officials and Congress leaders in the leaks. “I have given proof to the SOG of the involvement of a private organisation, Rajiv Gandhi Circle, in the REET 2021 paper leak case. As per law, the additional district magistrate is the coordinator of the exam but in REET 2021, the head of Rajiv Gandhi Circle, Pradeep Parashar, was made the Jaipur coordinator. I have raised this issue and demanded an inquiry, but nothing has happened,” said Meena.

ADG Rathore, however, said the police are taking action against anyone found involved in the leaks. “We are not shielding anybody,” he asserted.

Not just the opposition, Congress MLA Sachin Pilot has also upped the ante against his party’s government for not doing enough to check frequent paper leaks. 

“The frequent paper leaks matter to young people, poor people who have been toiling hard. I welcome the steps taken by the government, but more needs to be done,” Pilot told ThePrint.

“It’s important that we get to the bottom of the case and take strict action against those involved. Who are the people doing it? It will help reinstate the youngsters’ belief in the system. Enough has not been done. It has become a vicious cycle now.”

Responding to the attacks, Gehlot said on the floor of the House on 23 January that his government is more worried about the paper leaks than the opposition. The government is worried because people will question if it is unable to provide jobs, he said. “That is why we want that papers should not be leaked, and that the youth should get employment.” 

(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)

Also Read: Provide counselling sessions, recorded lectures — authorities order coaching centres in Kota


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