Two college students were arrested from suburban Malad here last night by Navi Mumbai Police in connection with the leak of two question papers during the ongoing HSC Board exam.
Rahul Bachchelal Bhaskar (22) and Azharuddin Shaikh (20) –both students of TY (third year) and SY (second year) B.Com from a local college–were arrested from their residence at Malvani in Malad, said a senior police officer who did not wish to be identified.
According to police, photographs of three pages each of question papers of both Marathi and Secretarial Practice (SP) were circulated on a social media platform (Whatsapp) just before the commencement of exams on March 2 and March 4.
The examinations of Std 12th, conducted by Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education (commonly called SSC and HSC Board) are being held at present.
After the first paper leak, Dattatray Jagtap, Chairman of Konkan division of the Board, filed a complaint with Vashi police in neighbouring Navi Mumbai.
Subsequently, police initiated a probe into the case with the help of crime branch and as well as Cyber Cell and identified the WhatsApp group from where the leaks originated, the officer said.
Also, two separate offences have been registered against unidentified persons at Vashi Police Station in Navi Mumbai under relevant sections of the Maharashtra Prevention of Malpractices at University, Board and other specified Exams Act -1982 and the IT Act.
During investigations, a team of Navi Mumbai Police zeroed in on two students from Malvani area and arrested them late last night, said Hemant Nagrale, Navi Mumbai Police Commissioner.
On Saturday, Jagtap had appealed the students not to panic and had said that no re-examination of Marathi and Secretarial Practice subjects would be held.
Even as the board is baffled over circulation of question papers on WhatsApp, city principals and educationists have raised a basic concern — over the sanctity of examinations. While most do not have direct solutions to the problem, they advise stricter rules and restoration of the value system and integrity among exam conductors. They also suggest use of technology to counter problems created by technology.
On Monday, Uday Nare, a former member of the state board committee and a teacher at Hansraj Morarji Public School, suggested that the board make note of students who enter exam halls late. The board accepted the suggestion and issued a circular to that effect.
“The source of the malpractice is difficult to trace but the board can keep a track of students who are regularly late and could be taking advantage of circulation of the (exam paper) images. Students also need to be reminded about repercussions of cheating during exams,” said Nare.
Principals said if the police find the involvement of exam conductors and take strict action against them, this could serve as a deterrent. “We visited several centres in Malwani, Malad (East), as part of a flying squad to check on malpractice but could not find mobile phones on anyone. But that does not rule out misuse. Police and board officials need to ensure strict action against those who are caught to discourage malpractice,” said Suresh Nair, principal, Vivek Vidyalya, Goregaon.
Some educationists, though, said that only technology can deal with problems created by technology.
“The state board has to use technology to tackle this problem. They could look at digital delivery and multiple question sets of the same difficulty level for every division or, if possible, even at a more micro level,” said Vasant Kalpande, former chairperson of the board.
Principals from other boards called it a trust and integrity issue. Avnita Bir, principal, R N Podar School (CBSE), Santacruz, said, “As the education system relies a lot on technology, confidentiality and work ethics start mattering so much more. Once we compromise, the next time, succumbing to a temptation doesn’t feel like a compromise. So yes, it’s all about our value systems and work ethics.”
Some others said the board needs to correct its ways. Coaching class owner Narendra Bambwani said, “The board ought to ensure that rules are followed in appointing exam conductors and other personnel involved. In many a centre, senior students are asked to assist in exam work.”
Experts said that the emoluments paid by the board are a pittance and hence several teachers don’t participate in exam duty.