It is no secret that attempting any civil service examinations is a gruesomely long and tough process. Let’s not forget the mental strain and rigorous study schedule prospective students are put through to qualify for these exams. Many hopeful students are pushed into taking up coaching classes, sacrificing their weekends or any free time they have to focus on passing the exam. During one such examination of TNPSC, 99 students were caught indulging in malpractice and were therefore banned for life – meaning they can never attempt to write these exams again.
The Tamil Naidu Public Service Commission (TNPSC) had conducted its state-run civil service exams in September 2019. 16.29 lakh candidates were admitted for the Group IV 2019 examinations, out of which 6,491 candidates will be admitted. The results were announced in November of the same year, which was the shortest time taken for the evaluation of these exams.
HOW IT ALL WENT DOWN
- A source who works in the Directorate of Public Instruction (DPI) passed on candidate information to two Tahsildars (A district official in India in charge of revenues and taxation). The Tahsildars contacted the applicants with offers and information for the examinations.
- Each candidate was to pay Rs10-12 Lakhs as ‘service’ tax.
- They were then told to opt for Rameswaram and Keelakarai as test centres.
- Candidates were given two pens;1) an ordinary ink to fill in registration details and other basic information. 2) the disappearing ink which was used to mark the answers in the OMR sheet!
The disappearing ink meant that the answers initially marked by those students would vanish after a while. It would look like blank answer sheets after a while. The TNPSC had introduced a procedure where invigilators had to check and sign every script, certifying the number of questions answered. This meant blank answer papers would raise suspicion. The answers were leaked, to a third party once the exam had commenced and was kept for the two Tahsildars in a pre-determined place.
Only 39 students had made it through, and the corruption involved were on the process of refunding the money taken from the other students. They reportedly did not have much time to complete the rest of the answer papers.
HOW IT CAME TO LIGHT
- The TNPSC brought about a transparency scheme; candidates could access the answer scripts of others.
- It was during this cross-checking that some candidates found that most of the toppers belonged to Rameswaram and Keelakarai centres and which raised the red flag.
- A complaint was filed, and the CB-CID got involved.
The CB-CID on January 24, 2020, arrested three persons involved in this matter, one of whom admitted to having used this method to pass the exam in 2017. It is believed that many such malpractices have gone unnoticed and are now raising suspicions.
The TNPSC had also issued a new rank list and selected those who had come out on top based on merit like it should have been.
Some believe that the corrupted people involved should be put behind bars; banning candidates for life is not the right punishment, as it deprives many deserving candidates a chance at getting selected. Should the state employ students who were easily manipulated to take up the easy way out? Is that what it means to be a true government official?