Assam CM announces 4-hour shutdown of internet services to curb misconduct during exams | Panda Anku

During a virtual meeting with deputy commissioners and other stakeholders, Assam Prime Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma announced that mobile internet services would be suspended for four hours on August 21-28 to prevent any form of misconduct in conducting the state exams to contain

Sarma said he did not want to take any chances following previously reported cases of cheating on state exams and would like those who deserved to secure Grade III and Grade IV posts. The exams observe that thousands of students turn up annually.

CM apologizes in advance

In order to ensure the smooth running of the recruitment exams for the government agencies, the Assam CM had announced that the mobile internet connections would be disconnected for the duration of the exams on both days. The audits are being conducted as part of the initiative which pledged to create 100,000 jobs within the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s first term if they could return to power in Assam. Trials to be held on the 21st and 28th would recruit about 30,000 for the Grade III and Grade IV positions.

The testing centers expect approximately 14,30,337 registered candidates to participate in one of the state’s largest drives in 25 of 35 counties. On August 21, the exam would take place between 10:00 and 12:00 and again from 14:00 to 16:00, and the same times would also be scheduled for August 28.

Based on Sarma’s instructions, all officers would adhere to Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to maintain a transparent and foolproof mechanism for recruiting competent youth. A Nodal officer would be appointed in all 25 districts, and Gazetteed officers would be used as observers to ensure that the SOPs were being properly implemented. Apart from them, there would be support from sub-inspector level police officers and other staff. All officials have been instructed to prevent candidates and chaperones from carrying electronic devices of any kind into the center. In addition, two videographers would be deployed at the centers to ensure fair administration of the exams by recording the entire process.

According to the regulations, once a candidate has completed the exam and left the center, they are not allowed to re-enter on that particular shift. District police chiefs have been urged to keep their intelligence network active in the centers to ensure all security systems are working.

Sarma added that there would be no breaks in the wired internet and only the mobile internet would be shut down to avoid incidents like the questionnaire leak on WhatsApp. “I would like to apologize to the public for the inconvenience,” added Sarma.

The Northeast Now has also reported that another test specifically for hiring drivers in state government agencies is planned for September 11th. However, decisions regarding the internet shutdown that day have not yet been finalized.

Past instances of audit irregularities

In the past, the state has faced cases where papers were leaked via Whatsapp ahead of several important exams for civilian posts. The government was forced to cancel written exams to recruit over 500 sub-inspectors for the state troops after the questionnaire was leaked and a huge exam fraud exposed.

The scam was reported from 24 different Assam centers and further investigation into the issue resulted in huge amounts of money being recovered. The following month raged with political debates and numerous arrests. With this in mind, the Assam CM ensured that the necessary steps were taken to avoid a recurring scenario of candidates cheating their way into government posts.

However, Assam is not the only state that has taken such strict measures to ensure that exams are conducted fairly. West Bengal state has installed internet jammers and CCTV cameras near institutions to ensure those taking the exams do not engage in wrongdoing. The NEET exams, conducted in Kerala, were in the news for a while because they asked candidates to remove their underwear as an anti-cheating measure.

Institutions in Karnataka went a step further in 2019 by forcing students to carry boxes over their heads with only one side cut open to prevent cheating on their exams.

This year, the Rajasthan government also suspended mobile internet and SMS services during state teacher recruitment exams after it was revealed that the Rajasthan Eligibility Examination for Teachers (REET) questionnaire was leaked from the Office of the Ministry of Education and used for more than a crore in cash had been sold. The Assembly of Rajasthan then passed the Public Examination of Rajasthan (Measures to Prevent Unfair Means of Recruitment) Act 2022 to prevent the use of unfair means in public examinations.

As reported by The Print, fraud was made a criminal offense under the law, and punishable by imprisonment for between five and ten years and fines ranging from 10 lakh to £10 million.

Cheating becomes a widespread practice

From smuggling notes into exam rooms to implanting skin-colored Bluetooth devices, candidates and students know they adapt misconduct to the increasingly stringent exam room regulations.

Just the year before, about 10 students were arrested for attempting to cheat on student teacher exams by hiding Bluetooth devices in the soles of their sandals. Further research into the matter revealed that at least 25 of these students had bought similar shoes from a racket for around £600,000.

A report by The Economist rightly analyzed this scenario, noting that India’s audits are plagued by fraud.

Among them, questionnaires have a notorious history of being leaked via Whatsapp despite being confidentially kept locked at police stations or government offices. Just before exam season begins in the country, Facebook and Whatsapp groups are being inundated with offers for guaranteed academic success, with the set slogan “Get leaked questions and answers before your upcoming exam”.

Parents often engage in this illegal practice as well, and have passed answers to their children to ensure they pass the crucial exams. In 2015, around 750 children and many parents were arrested for cheating on exams.

Without proper reform of how audits are approached and misconduct dealt with, this cycle of cheating and network slashing would continue to stem it.

Also Read: Gujarat: Student Sticks Rs 500 Note on Answer Sheet to Bribe Examiner Suspended for One Year

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