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Student blew the lid off paper leak

Many students were relieved at having written their last core subject exam on Monday morning. They now have to go through it all again.— File Photo: K. Murali Kumar
He called up the PU helpline and alerted officials about the leaked paper circulating on WhatsApp

It was a II Pre-University (PU) science student, who was to sit for the exam in less than two hours, who alerted the authorities about the II PU chemistry question paper leak on Monday.

Department of Pre-University Education (DPUE) Director Pallavi Akurathi told The Hindu that the PU helpline received a call around 7.30 a.m. from a “II PU science student in Bengaluru”.

Seeking anonymity, the student told the official about handwritten question papers being circulated to them through WhatsApp.

Many students were relieved at having written their last core subject exam on Monday morning. They now have to go through it all again.— File Photo: K. Murali Kumar

“He said one of his classmates had sent it to him. He then forwarded the images to us. As many as 36 out of 37 questions in the paper matched,” Ms. Akurathi said.

DPUE, based on a preliminary investigation, submitted a report to the State government, which consequently cancelled the exam and ordered the department to hold a fresh one.

The Primary and Secondary Education Department is expected to set up a committee to conduct an internal probe into the incident.

‘Bengaluru not the leak source’

While department officials refused to divulge details of the source of the leak, they denied it being anywhere in Bengaluru. Ajay Seth, Principal Secretary, Primary and Secondary Education, explained that question papers sent to exam centres in Bengaluru go directly from the DPUE office, not from a treasury like in other districts. “None of the rooms where the question papers were stored here had been opened when DPUE first got the news,” he said.

Some students also said they were offered leaked papers for Rs. 3,000 earlier in the day. “Some of us dismissed them as rumours. But those who did buy them found similarities with the actual paper,” said a student from a college in Rajajinagar.

However, there are hints about where the leaks could have originated.

The department has suspended six officials who were in charge of two exam centres: SASM PU College for Women, Ballari and Government PU College, Malur. The chemistry exam was conducted in 975 exam centres across the State.

Without directly indicting the suspended officials, a senior official said the suspension was a precautionary measure to ensure they do not influence the probe.

Though the Malleswaram police said no case had been registered until Monday night, and that they had been intimated only orally, DPUE officials said they had given a written complaint and also received an acknowledgement.

Meanwhile, the whistle-blower is likely to be roped in by DPUE for further investigations. When asked if there is a possibility of other papers being leaked, officials refused to comment.

Students not a happy lot

Most II Pre-University (PU) science students were heaving a sigh of relief on Monday, assuming that they had finished writing their last core subject exam, when news trickled in that the chemistry exam held earlier in the day had been cancelled.

In fact, a many students were unaware of the cancellation even in the evening. One student said she was relaxing as she thought she had only the language papers ahead of her. “The news of the paper leak has stressed me out. It will be difficult to prepare all over again,” she said.

Another worry is that this may hamper their preparations for other entrance exams. A student said he is to write the IIT-JEE in the first week of April. “We hope the re-exam will not clash with these dates,” he said.

Online petition

Within a few hours of the re-exam news reaching the students, they began an online petition tagging the PUE Department director and titled ‘2nd PUC Chemistry re-exam Problems — why it should not happen’.

By 10 p.m., the petition had over 100 signatures. It lists out a number of reasons as to why the chemistry exam should not stay cancelled. The students argue that the paper was leaked just an hour before the exam, making it unlikely that it reached many students. Secondly, the fresh exam could clash with entrance tests and put result declaration in jeopardy. Thirdly, they ask, “It is not our fault, so why should we pay the price?”

The petition also has a side note for students and parents: “What can you do? Spam the mail boxes of government officials – they can ignore a few people, but a few hundred? A few thousand? Make this big, and they will be forced to take action which does not involve a re-exam.”

The chaos of 2012

In 2012, the PUE Department had to reschedule 15 papers after repeated instances of paper leak. In fact, students had to go back from the exam centres before the exams began after DPUE received confirmation of the math and physics papers had been leaked.

Back then, officials had hinted at the involvement of the private tuition lobby. Fourteen government college lecturers who were also taking private tuitions were suspended. Four private colleges were disaffiliated for their alleged role in the leak, while 10 people were arrested by the Criminal Investigation Department.

And the lessons learnt from that experience? PUE Department Director Pallavi Akurathi says four changes were introduced this year, including adding serial numbers to each question paper, and a change in the combination of the person and route for distribution of papers to exam centres.

Lecturers suspended

Kolar/Ballari: Two lecturers of government pre-university colleges in Kolar were suspended on Monday following the leak of the II PU Chemistry question paper. They have been identified as L. Sathish, economics lecturer at a college in Malur, and Umadevi, physics lecturer at a college in Kamasamudra, Bangarpet taluk.

Deputy Commissioner K.V. Thrilokchandra said the duo was suspended on the grounds of suspicion about their role in the leak.

Venkataramaiah, the Deputy Director of Pre-University (DDPU), added that three staff members, including the chief superintendent, joint superintendent and office superintendent of an exam centre, were changed earlier in the day following an instruction from the DPUE headquarters in Bengaluru.

Meanwhile, the DDPU in Ballari said upon the deputy commissioner’s direction, he had confirmed with the treasury that the question papers were taken out only at 7.15 a.m., as usual, and distributed. However, unconfirmed reports said the question paper had gone viral on social media from around 1 a.m.