Mumbai: The issue of paper leaks and malpractices in various government recruitment exams in Maharashtra has rocked the ongoing assembly session and led to several arrests. However, while the state government and Opposition are pointing fingers at each other, it is the students who are facing the brunt.
Over the past few months, three government exams have caused controversy for paper leaks and alleged tampering with marks.
These are the Maharashtra health department recruitment exams for Groups C and D in October, the Teacher’s Eligibility Test (TET) in November, and recruitment exams for the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) in December.
The Pune cyber police are currently conducting an investigation into all three exams, and have so far arrested 25 people, including Maharashtra State Council of Examination (MSCE) commissioner Tukaram Supe, and Sukhdev Dere, who was MSCE commissioner until 2017.
The police have also arrested the director and other employees of GA Software Pvt Ltd, a firm that was contracted in 2021 with conducting the TET and MHADA exams.
GA Software had earlier been blacklisted by the former Devendra Fadnavis government in the state, but was given the all clear this year by Tukaram Supe. The BJP is now demanding a CBI inquiry into this matter, but is getting pushback from the state government.
While the controversy continues over the irregularities in the exams, candidates believe their future hangs in the balance.
“Some students say the exams should be cancelled after the paper leak, while others say that we studied so hard but we may not be able to sail through a re-examination,” Santosh Magar, president of the Diploma in Teacher Education (DTED) students’ association, told ThePrint.
The political blame-game
Maharashtra Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis said this week that he believed the irregularities in the recruitment exams could be traced all the way to the Mantralaya (the government’s seat of power).
“If connections to the recruitment scam reach the Mantralaya, then the state police will not be able to stay impartial in its investigations, which is why we are demanding a CBI inquiry,” Fadnavis said to reporters on the sidelines of the winter session of the Maharashtra assembly.
However, the state government has countered that there is no need for a CBI inquiry, and has claimed that the irregularities can actually be traced back to when BJP leader Fadnavis was chief minister.
It has pointed fingers at the now defunct MahaPariksha portal, which was launched under the Fadnavis government in 2016 for online exams. This portal was also the subject of controversies over irregularities that led to student protests last year, after which it was scrapped.
The state government has also said it is taking necessary actions to deal with the irregularities in the recruitment exams this year.
“The government is looking into the paper leak issue in recruitment exams and has decided to blacklist all these companies,” cabinet minister Nawab Malik told reporters Tuesday. He insinuated that the Fadnavis government was responsible for recruiting the private companies who have been conducting the exams, and also drew parallels between the Maharashtra exam scam and the Vyapam scam in Madhya Pradesh, where aspirants allegedly bribed their way into jobs and college seats. The BJP has denied such accusations.
Students bear the brunt
Lakhs of students are reeling in the wake of cancelled or compromised exams. As recently as 12 December, state housing minister Jitendra Awhad announced on his Twitter at 1.24 am that the MHADA exam, which was to be conducted that morning, stood cancelled due to evidence of the paper being leaked.
Students replying to him directly on Twitter expressed their anger as they had travelled long distances from their hometowns to reach exam centres. A bus strike on the same day added to their woes.
The Maharashtra health department recruitment exams for Groups C and D were also riddled with controversies.
The exams, which were originally due to be held in September, were eventually conducted on 24 and 31 October since the private company in charge had not allegedly made adequate preparations on time. However, when the exams were finally conducted, there were evident malpractices in play, students alleged. Security at the exam centres was said to be weak and the paper was allegedly leaked too.
Tanaji Telange, a Nanded resident who appeared for Group C health department exams, told ThePrint that he got two hall tickets. “I was very confused seeing two hall tickets. Even worse, I got those tickets the previous night at 10 pm. Such was the confusion. When we have the MPSC [Maharashtra Public Service Commission], then what is the need for such private companies anyway?” he asked.
Mangesh Deshmukh, an aspirant for the health department and MHADA exams, also said that private companies were mismanaging exams.
“I have given MPSC exams… in those there are police who oversee the security. Here I couldn’t find anyone. Nobody asked my identity as well. The fear was anyone could have gone in anybody’s place to give exams,” he said.
Sanjay Chavan, 30, told ThePrint that he had devoted two years of his life studying continuously for government recruitment exams.
A resident of a village 150km from the nearest city, Aurangabad, he has been living a hand-to-mouth existence. His farmer family is struggling with loans and he is not earning either. To pay for his library subscription and books, Sanjay too takes loans from friends. His hopes were high when he went to take the TET in November, even if it meant paying Rs 2,000 to reach the exam centre in Aurangabad.
He told ThePrint he was crushed when it was declared that the paper was leaked and the results might not stand. “It gets very depressing. I get angry. What did I study for? I have dreams of getting into a government job. Now I am growing old, and can’t get into any private job,” he said.
(Edited by Asavari Singh)