SSC Exam Scam Part II: How fair is SSC’s selection process?

The SSC argues that a number of steps have been taken in the past few years to curb ‘cheating’ and manipulation, but has it been successful? Are all reforms just on paper?

NH photo by Vipin
NH photo by Vipin
user

Vikrant Jha

How fair can the selection process be? The SSC claims to annually screen over 14 million (One crore 40 lakh) candidates for roughly 25 thousand posts. In other words, it is selecting 10 people out of every million unemployed who take the examinations. No wonder academic-activists like Yogendra Yadav say the process is a ‘farce’.

The SSC argues that a number of steps have been taken in the past few years to curb ‘cheating’ and manipulation. “Introduction of videography to check impersonation in written examinations and typing tests and utilisation of services of Central Paramilitary Forces personnel at examination centres for frisking of candidates to check malpractices,” is one of the reforms that finds mention in its annual report available on its website.

It also mentions “installation of jammers in examination halls to check malpractices”. “Deploying of Flying Squads from the Commission’s Headquarters and Regional Offices to the Examination Venues” are some of the other measures cited by the Commission.

Indeed, candidates confirm that physical frisking and restrictions imposed on them are extensive. “We would be embarrassed if such frisking takes place in public places,” conceded many of them.

“We are not allowed to carry even a pen inside. We are not allowed to wear full sleeve shirts. Four policemen check us, they make us take off even our shoes and socks. They press our body and check us in a manner that would be humiliating in public places and airports,” claimed one of them.

And yet unfair means, leaks etc. do take place, proved by the number of times the exams are suspended and cancelled by the Commission itself. One of the key deficiencies appear to be the inability of the world’s ‘largest recruiting agency’ to conduct examinations in secure examination halls. Instead, every year a large number of private vendors numbering in thousands are invited to hold the tests for the SSC across the country.

“We are not allowed to carry even a pen inside. We are not allowed to wear full sleeve shirts. Four policemen check us, they make us take off even our shoes and socks. They press our body and check us in a manner that would be humiliating in public places and airports,” say candidates

How these private vendors are selected is one area of inquiry that candidates suggest should be looked into by the Central Bureau of Investigation. Residential houses, dubious cyber cafes, etc. regularly figure among SSC examination centres. And while CCTV cameras are ubiquitous at the centres, the candidates say they are never sure if all of them are functional or if the Commission conducts an audit and preserves the footage for any length of time for inquiries.

Photograph of one such centre, ostensibly housed on the first floor of a residential house the ground floor of which is occupied by a BJP MLA, for some reason went viral on social media. This is one of the several such photographs that disillusioned candidates put up, one of them located in an industrial area.

Picture courtesy: Social media
Picture courtesy: Social media
An SSC examination centre (SP Infotech) ostensibly housed on the first floor of a residential house, the ground floor of which is occupied by a BJP MLA

The private vendors, candidates alleged, are required to even hire the invigilators, provide the infrastructure, systems and so on. They also claimed that complaints about several such centres have often been submitted to the SSC but with little or no effect.

When this correspondent visited a SSC examination centre in Dwarka’s Matiala, the caretaker of the centre indeed conceded that it was them who were responsible not only for conducting examinations, but also for invigilating the examinations.

A remote server software called Team Viewer, they suggest, is the next villain. With this software installed on two different computers, one of the users can get access to everything on the screen of the other user. The distance between the two computers does not matter and someone sitting hundreds of kilometres away can actually write the exam for someone who is sitting in the examination hall.

“Potentially, exam centres can charge money from candidates and allow them access to computers with the downloaded software so that he can get his papers solved by someone sitting somewhere else,” is the allegation one heard most frequently during the demonstration in Delhi by frustrated candidates.

There is a catch though. The SIFI software for conducting the examination online, however, disables Internet while the examination is going on. But bugs in the software and knowledge of codes (like cheat codes in computer games) can still provide access to the Internet.

With Team Viewer software installed on two different computers, one of the users can get access to everything on the screen of the other user. The distance between the two computers does not matter

Cheating, unfair means and manipulations were probably there earlier too, concede teachers engaged by coaching institutes in Delhi’s Mukherjee Nagar. “Lekin pehle aante me namak thha to chalta thha, ab namak me aanta hai to hangama hoga hi,” exclaims Harender Singh, a popular Maths teacher.

Singh claims to know of at least five candidates who are certain to clear the MTS (Multi Task Service) exam, 2017, not because of they are better than the rest but because they have paid for the privilege of a government job, he says. There is undoubtedly a parallel recruitment system in operation, unquestioned and unhindered, says Anupam, Delhi state president of Swaraj India, headed by Yogendra Yadav.

“While there is no evidence yet, the talk of the town is that government jobs are being sold for between ₹30 and ₹50 lakh. Everyone preparing for SSC knows and talks about it but 99% of the candidates being from poor and middle-class families are unable to take advantage of this organised loot,” adds Anupam who goes on to claim that only people with money and political clout can now get into government jobs.

This is part 2 of the three-part story. Click here to access the first part


Click here to join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines


Published: 11 Mar 2018, 7:59 AM