By Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri
Kolkata, Feb 26 (SocialNews.XYZ) In West Bengal the teachers' recruitment irregularities scam involving crores of rupees has gained such negative popularity that it has overshadowed the fact that though not on a massive scale but incidents of paper leaks had been part of the examination scams.
Call it a coincidence but the instances of examination paper leaks happened during the tenure of former West Bengal education minister Partha Chatterjee, who is in judicial custody as the purported mastermind in the multi-crore teachers' recruitment scam.
The worst incident of examination paper leak was recorded during the madhyamik examination (secondary level examinations conducted by the West Bengal Board of Secondary Examinations) in 2019. The question papers for Bengali, English, History, Mathematics and Life Sciences were not only leaked but also circulated on social media. Several arrests were made in that connection.
In 2020, the examinations were conducted under strict surveillance but despite that there were allegations of leaks of the Bengali and Geography papers. In 2021, the madhyamik examinations were not conducted because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the examinees were awarded gross marks based on their performance in Classes 9 and 10. In 2022, however, no such examination paper leaks were reported.
Surprisingly, in the current multi-crore teachers' recruitment scam in West Bengal, the phenomenon of question paper leaks in the written examinations has never surfaced. Although the two central agencies conducting parallel probes into the scam -- the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) -- in their reports and chargesheets filed in the court have highlighted several angles of the scam, but the question paper leaks were never mentioned in any of these reports.
A CBI source associated with the investigation process said that in this particular scam there was no place for examination paper leaks.
"Scams in recruitment examinations can happen in two ways. The first is the traditional way of leaking question papers in advance against a fixed sum of money. In that case, the examinee concerned has to make some effort in knowing and memorizing the answers in advance and then also make the effort of answering all the questions correctly in the OMR sheets.
"That had been the traditional practice in examination malpractices. But in this particular scam, the rewards were for those who submitted blank OMR sheets or answered just a couple of questions. The OMR sheets for candidates paying money to ensure recruitment were changed or tampered with at a later stage to make them eligible for recruitment. For us it is a totally new experience on how examination manipulation and that too in OMR sheets can be done without leaking question papers," the CBI source added.
However, the allegation of paper leaks surfaced again in the closing quarter of the last year over the written examination in the latest teachers' eligibility test (TET) conducted around that time. The controversy arose after copies of some OMR sheets used in the examination surfaced just an hour before the actual exam.
State education minister Bratya Basu rubbished the allegations of question paper leaks and claimed that vested interests were circulating fake OMR sheets to discredit the education system of the state and the state government.
However, a central investigation agency official pointed out that the allegation of examination paper leaks, right or wrong, has resurfaced when tampering with the OMR sheets is out of the question because of the ongoing probe.
According to educationist and professor of history AK Das, be it through examination paper leaks or through OMR sheet manipulation, especially in case of recruitment examinations, the matter involves payment of huge sums to ensure recruitment. "In most cases those getting jobs through such unfair means arrange for money by selling their assets or borrowing huge amounts which in most cases are from private moneylenders at exorbitant interest. So even after getting jobs the prime task of teaching takes a backseat and their concentration is focused on side income to repay the loans or recover the money paid as fast as possible. This is how the collapse of the entire education system starts," Das said.
City-based psychiatrist and a faculty of KPC Medical College & Hospital, Dr Tirthankar Guha Thakurata analyses the psychological aspect of teachers appointed through unfair means that prompt them to keep away from the prime task of teaching. "An illegally appointed teacher is always aware of his incapability. So, in the subconscious mind the fear of getting caught is always there. So, this fear prompts them to avoid their teaching job as much as possible. For some the fear of the curse of those whom he or she had deprived of the job is also an added factor. So in the midst of this continuous anxiety and for some a feeling of guilt, they become a disgrace for the system. The education system also starts collapsing because of such teachers," said Guha Thakurata.
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