By Sushil Kutty
All CBSE question papers should henceforth – like film Censor Board certificates, which carry no-smoking and no animals were used in the making of the film claims – carry the legend ‘This Q-paper was not leaked at any step of its making process.’ That requires a ‘foolproof’ system in place. As of now there is no such system. Or else the class XII Economics paper and class X Mathematics q-papers would not have been leaked, placing lakhs of students in the difficult situation of sitting for the two tests all over again. The fact remains that if the culprit is traced, the motive will be found – political or material.
Given the option, the majority of students do not want to sit for a retest. Those outside Delhi and Haryana do not want to because they say the ‘scam’ took place in Delhi and why should they be “punished”. Those in Delhi/Haryana/Ludhiana do not want a retest because they don’t want to undergo another phase of exam stress! And, maybe, also because many of them must have benefitted from the leaks. ‘Give us an aggregate of 80% and let’s say it’s quits,’ is their refrain.
But is that fair to students who could not lay their hands on the leaked q-papers? Those who could get hold of the leaked q-papers were at an overwhelming advantage and must have got every answer right – scoring a definite 100%. And these days of ‘centum’, when college cut-offs hover between 99.8% and 100%, these boys and girls would take the best seats in the best colleges in Delhi and elsewhere.
Of course, because the leaked q-papers were sold primarily in Delhi NCR and Haryana, the majority of the “lucky students” who got hold of the leaked q-papers must be from Delhi/Haryana. Loud anti-re-test protests in places such as Ludhiana in Punjab point to the likelihood of Whatsapp finding “lucky students” outside Delhi. It’s a fact though that Whatsapp images of the leaked q-papers did not make their way down South or go west and the east – end up in the northeast.
On Saturday a set of parents took the case to the Delhi high court. But even as media-driven protests were taking place in places such as Ahmedabad and Ludhiana, the Delhi Police’s Special Investigation Team (SIT) has “uncovered a money trail linking parents of several students” to the case. These students are part of several Whatsapp groups. The parents of these students of coaching institutes of Delhi-NCR paid money up to Rs 10,000 for a leaked q-paper. These Whatsapp groups have since been deleted or their chat boxes cleared of messages. The SIT has sought help from Google and Whatsapp to get details.
“They have played a key role in sharing these question papers. Group members and admins are being questioned by the SIT of the Crime Branch of Delhi Police,” a newspaper report said. The police have sought details of examination centres, their superintendents and contact numbers of banks where the q-papers were kept in sealed envelopes before they were released on exam-day.
That being said, the overwhelming view is that the CBSE should have cancelled the class XII Economics and class X Mathematics tests immediately after the “leaks” were found. CBSE head Anita Karwal should have promptly fired orders to cancel the exams. What was she doing, sleeping on the job? Sack her!
The government view was spelled out on Friday: It is too late to cancel the tests. An inquiry is underway to fix responsibility, accountability. Class XII students all over India will have to appear again for the Economics paper on April 25. And a re-test of class X Mathematics will be considered and if held it will be in July of this year. The re-test will be only for students of Delhi and Haryana.
The government wants the inquiry to finish before taking a call on the class X exams. Meanwhile, it will continue to “shield” Anita Karwal who happens to be “from Gujarat, the Prime Minister’s home-state.” The implication of that qualification is not lost on anyone. So the inquiry must necessarily be biased. The media wants the government to institute an “independent inquiry” and that could only mean a court-appointed inquiry where the likes of Ms Karwal, who happens to have an “IPS husband”, would not be able to interfere and influence the probe. So what to do, sack her husband too?
The media-driven ‘Sack CBSE Boss’ campaign is solely TRP-driven. It is only the television media of India that can come up with such corny headlines like ‘Punishment For Our Kids’. No media anywhere in the world adopts children! You know it is BS the minute you see it. Such vacuous and meaningless proclamations should not be reason for sacking this or that official. Government officials should not be sacked just because the media are engaged in a TRP War. And why should Anita Karwal go because some motivated individual leaked q-papers?
The inquiry will first have to fix responsibility: Who leaked the q-papers? Was it a CBSE official? Was it a printing press employee? Was it a ‘Babu’ of the Ministry of Human Resource Development? Was it a politician of the ruling dispensation who somehow got hold of the question papers? Was it an opposition politician? It could be anybody. The CBSE has a set procedure to make q-papers and the process goes through several stages: sourcing of questions from subject experts to the finalization of multiple q-paper sets by a committee of CBSE officials to the printing of the q-papers and final dispatch to holding centres (post offices/banks) and the last journey to examination centres. The leaks could have taken place at any of these stages.
The SIT of the Crime Branch of the Delhi Police is investigating the ‘leaks’, and startling disclosures are expected though opposition parties and much of the media do not believe so because they have already ‘sacked’ the culprits: 1) CBSE Boss. 2) HRD Minister. Both must go for a “free and fair probe”. Problem is, the day the Arnab Goswamis, the Zakka Jacobs and the Rahul Shivshankars are allowed to pronounce guilt that day will be the end of any free and fair trial. These days of campaign-style of journalism, truth has been a casualty as witnessed in the Arushi Talwar murder case and the Sunanda Pushkar death case. Under pressure from media, investigating officers/agencies were transferred/changed, and for what? Did it help the cases any way?
Finally, let’s not ignore the politics involved in the case. This column’s opinion is that ‘swamp creatures’ are in a helter-skelter after four years of ‘drain the swamp’. With just a year and two left for general elections 2019, the resistance is desperate and would go to any length to keep the current dispensation on tenterhooks/shamed/indicted. The CBSE paper leak is one in that string. It doesn’t matter if children get affected. So, to get to the bottom of the affair, to get to the truth, it is imperative to find out who leaked the question papers. It defies logic why somebody would leak q-papers for Rs 10,000 per student and then leak that fact to the police/CBSE. (IPA Service)