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Special Forces, undercover agents, to catch students cheating in exams in India

Indian army candidates sit in their underwear for exam to deter cheating during a recruitment day in Muzaffarpur, India, on February 28, 2016. (AFP)

Elite counter-terrorism units and intelligence officers are being deployed for the first time to curb cheating by teenaged students in school-leaving examination in India’s largest state, Uttar Pradesh, underlining the menace copying has become across the country.

The Uttar Pradesh Government, run by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, has announced the unheard-of measures ahead of State Board examinations 6.6 million students of class 10 and 12 will sit for from February 6 to March 12 in the politically sensitive province.

Besides the unprecedented deployment of commandoes and undercover agents to deal with 16-18 year olds, footage from CCTV cameras and live stream from nearly 10,000 examination centers will be monitored by senior police and education department officials to make the tests copying-free through electronic surveillance.

“We will not spare anyone this time”, Dinesh Sharma, Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister and Minister for Secondary Education, said in the state capital, Lucknow. “There is a fully operational statewide copying mafia whose services are hired by students or their guardians for a hefty price. But we have decided to take on the education underworld and roped in the Special Task Force (STF), whose main task is to gun down terrorists, and intelligence agencies which usually monitor subversive and anti-national activities.”

An eminent educationist – who didn’t want to be named - told Al Arabiya: “Unless a student does exceedingly well in class 10 and 12 examinations, it’s impossible to enter a decent college and continue their education. So any means fair or foul are resorted to for scoring high marks in the highly competitive environment.”

Rampant copying

“Often parents and teachers push the teenagers to cheat. Moral values are in a free fall; copying is rampant and a blot on India’s educational system.”

Endorsing Sharma’s revelations about the copying mafia, the educationist added: “The underworld is very tech savvy. Cheating through messages on smart phones is common besides the older methods of bribing examiners and buying question papers leaked by corrupt officials in charge of conducting examination.”

In 2017, nearly 2000 students were caught copying in Uttar Pradesh alone. In neighboring Bihar province two years ago, television channels showed parents and relatives dangerously climbing the walls of a four-storied school building to
hand in answer sheets through the window.

“Should we shoot them?”, an unfazed Prashant Kumar Shahi, Bihar’s then Education Minister, famously retorted when the media demanded the government’s explanation. After the scandal died down, Bihar announced plans to impose hefty fines and jail those involved in copying operations in examination.

Late last year, Safeer Karim, a serving Indian Police Service (IPS) officer was arrested in Chennai for cheating in the prestigious Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) examination. Karim qualified for the IPS in 2014 but was eyeing the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) which is considered a notch higher in the civil service.

In his attempt to enter the IAS, the 29-year-old resorted to unfair means and was caught red-handed.

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Last Update: Friday, 9 February 2018 KSA 13:52 - GMT 10:52
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