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Meet the Whistle Blower of Assam’s Biggest Exam Paper Leak Scam

It was the second time in a row that the state education department had to chip in and take some harsh decision to reschedule the examinations of the 10th board examination or the High School Leaving Certificate (HSLC) exams conducted by the Board of Secondary Examination Assam. This time it was the exam for the major Indian Language including Assamese scheduled for March 18.

The state education minister Ranoj Pegu tweeted “SEBA has informed me that as advised by HCM, the exam of all MIL subjects, including English (IL) of HSLC scheduled for 18 March, will be rescheduled. The new date will be announced tomorrow.” (sic)

On March 12, at the stroke of midnight, the board cancelled the general science exam and rescheduled it for March 30, thereby extending the exam duration by another 10 days. The exam was cancelled after some reports emerged that the paper was leaked and later was also shared on social media.

Based on some substantial inputs, the CID of the state has arrested 28 people including 12 juveniles involved in the question paper leak scam. One premier educational institution in upper Assam and several school authorities figured in the list of suspicion and accusation. Many arrested have revealed important leads as to how the nexus operated. Students were being charged Rs 300 for one question, a set of question papers for Rs 3,000, and passing the exams for Rs 30,000.

The Director General of Police, Assam who has based himself in Dibrugarh, the epicentre of the nexus, this day informed that Assam’s HSLC General Science question papers were sold for up to Rs 3,000 on WhatsApp.

Speaking to reporters, Singh said WhatsApp’s assistance was being sought to identify the origin of the leak of the question paper. “The investigation has revealed that the question paper of the General Science examination was sold for anything between Rs 100 and Rs 3,000. We have found that somewhere it was sold for Rs 100, somewhere for Rs 200-300, and it went up to Rs 3,000. Assistance is being sought from WhatsApp to identify the origin of the leak,” he said.

“I am happy with the investigation and the progress we made over the last three days. Hopefully, we will crack this case soon. We will send some more packets of the question paper from upper Assam to the CID headquarters for the purpose of the investigation,” he added.

On the other hand, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma conceded that the question paper leak for the Class 10 state board exam is a “failure” on the part of his government. During the assembly session, he said, “the matric paper leak should not have happened. It reflects our failure. I accept it.”

The government, in the future, will take all possible steps to further strengthen the Board of Secondary Education, Assam (SEBA), which conducts the Class 10 matriculation examination in the state, Sarma said.

Hours after the Chief Minister hinted that more arrests will follow and the investigation will see its results soon, Himanta Biswa Sarma tweeted again and this time more beans were spilled and another shocker for the four lakh odd students appearing for the crucial exam of their life.

“It has been brought to my notice that the arrested accused centre in charge of Luhit Khabalu HS School has, during interrogation, confessed to leaking Assamese paper as well. In view of this, I have advised SEBA to reschedule Assamese exam also,” tweeted Sarma. (sic)

Pranab Dutta, centre in-charge of Lohit Khabolu confessed to leaking Assamese paper too. This prompted CM to reschedule the exam on March 18. Otherwise, the previous paper could have become viral before the exam. This would have put the blame again on govt.”

News18 reached Gogamukh in Dehmaji to interview Sachindra Doley, Associate Professor of Mathematics at Gogamukh College. He is the Whistle Blower to the paper leak scam and shares more about the leak and the people involved in it.

Excerpts of the exclusive interview:

How did it all start? When did you doubt the process and could smell the rat?

As I was the external invigilator, certain things came to my notice. On the first day of the matric exam, I got a message claiming that the answer to the questions of the English paper was available at 6.30 in the morning. I tried to collect more details and got hold of a photocopy of a handwritten (possibly a carbon copy) answer sheet which matched the sequence of questions from the first to the last question on the sheet. I forwarded the question paper to the Inspector of Schools (IS) of Dhemaji. She asked me what do I think of it. I told her that if the answer sheet was available at 6.30 in the morning then there is no doubt that the question paper was leaked much before.

Next, when I was going for my invigilation on the day of the Maths exam, a few friends hinted at something even more shocking. They informed me that the answers for the maths exams are out too and doing rounds since the morning. I am known as a strict teacher and non-tolerant towards malpractices during exams. Today, all my values were been tested. Friends taunted me for my strictness while questions for this crucial exam were leaked repeatedly.

You are a teacher and a small fragment of the massive system. How did you involve yourself?

That day evening, after the exam I started gathering details on this possible leak and joining the dots. Something was missing to prepare a full report and put it to the authorities. Though I kept the IS posted about this development too. The same news came about the social studies exams too.

It was however on March 12, I got information at 1 PM that question papers for the science exams were in circulation in the market and had been traded for Rs 1000. I immediately purchased the paper through a link and made the required payment through a pay app. This payment took me closer to a possible source and a loose end of this question paper exposure nexus.

I tried to lodge a complaint with all this information with the Inspector of Schools in Dhemaji district, but couldn’t get her over the phone. I shared this information which a journalist friend of mine, and he said that I have been judgemental and obsessive and their papers are fake and the handiwork of rumour mongers.

I somehow was not comfortable and I called up the Deputy Secretary of SEBA and informed him about the developments and shared with him all the documents and the telephone number though I got the question paper with him. I requested him to investigate the phone number as I felt that the phone number would lead to the source form where the question papers were leaked.

I shared the same information with the Chairman of SEBA on the directive from the deputy secretary. I did not stop here and informed Ranoj Pegu, the minister for the education of the state. Sir assured me that he would initiate an investigation at the earliest and advised me to share all information with the administration.

How did the Administration and the Police React and Proceed?

On the 13th morning, the IS called me. I informed our madam that I got this information from a student and if the phone number is investigated then more information about the unholy nexus could be revealed. The only thing I knew about the student is that he was a student of Salt Brook Academy from Dibrugarh. Madam then decided to file a case in Dibrugarh and possibly based on this case on the 13th evening the Superintended of the Police of the district called me urgently. I recorded my statement and was with the investigating team which reached from Guwahati for 48 hours. I have deposited my phone where I have collected all the information about the paper leak with the police.

Why do you think that this has been the system for years?

I can feel for the student and their state at this point in time. Most of them have appeared for four to five exams and ironically all these exams have been compromised. Information’s are there that question papers for these exams were leaked much prior to the exams. My appeal to all those students who have worked hard all these years for this exam must not be depressed or worried, the government and the department are working to cleanse the system and constitute a fair exam. This practice which is decaying our education system needs to be identified and operated upon for the future of our students.

After all, this, who leaked the paper?

I had a fair idea, joining together the dots teacher for a particular school was involved, and a few students of a certain educational institution. The CID has arrested the exam in-charge of Luit Khobolu, Pranab Dutta last night when he was trying to escape on a boat crossing the mighty Brahmaputra. As far as my information permits the in charge received 29 packets of the question paper. He however submitted only 28 packets of the Assamese paper. The packet he managed to sneak out was given to his associate Kumud Rajkhowa who then traded it with the question paper. This paper reached the students of Salt Brook and then the circulation continued. It’s not only about general science or Assamese, but most of the papers were also leaked and this is disgusting.

Over 4,23,000 students across the state are appearing for HSLC examinations this year. The examinations are being conducted according to the guidelines of the National Education Policy (NEP). SEBA has also made changes in four major subjects, Mathematics, General Science, English, and Social Science of the HSLC exams. The subject consists of two answer sheets, the first answer sheet are eight pages with objective-type questions, while the second is 16 pages of descriptive-type questions.

Meanwhile, Assam DGP shall reveal more inputs to the unholy nexus and spill more names and modus operandi in his address to the press at 1 PM today, the Board shall announce new dates for the rescheduled exam on the 18th of March.

— With Inputs form Mobikash Borgohain, Dhemaji

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