Encrypted, computer-based question paper system coming

Stung by the question paper leak that led to the cancellation of the Group-II Services examination, the Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission (TNPSC) has decided to introduce encrypted and computer-based question paper system. The move is expected to do away with manually printed question papers in a phased manner. Tenders would be floated shortly to finalise the company that specialises in the concept of online/system-based question papers, TNPSC sources said on Wednesday.

To start with, the commission would employ cloud technology and load encrypted question papers that can be accessed by examination centres a couple of hours before the scheduled examination. Question papers would be printed on-the-site and given to the candidates. “This will be a fail-safe system which we will be introducing in one of the examinations shortly. The encrypted question papers would be uploaded a couple of hours ahead of the examination and all centres will have a printing mechanism,” TNPSC Chairman R. Nataraj told ‘The Hindu’ on Wednesday.

He said the commission also had plans to introduce online question paper system. Though the technology was available, the availability of resources had to be assessed considering the large number of candidates appearing for TNPSC examinations.

In another development, the TNPSC would introduce computer-based tests to a select few examinations. In the proposed system, candidates would be able to access the question paper on computer screens installed in the examination hall, the sources said.

Breakthrough soon

Investigation in the question paper leak case is heading for a breakthrough with police narrowing down on two suspects alleged to be kingpins in the racket. Special teams of the Erode police rushed to Andhra Pradesh early this week to locate the suspects who were alleged to be absconding.

Interrogation of Balan alias Sridhar Raj of Chennai and his associate Varadarajan, already arrested in the case, revealed that the suspects whose names were given as Ananda Rao and Subash had links with a Kolkata-based printing unit that printed question papers for the TNPSC and other school examinations held in Tamil Nadu, police sources said.

“We have strong reasons to believe that the question paper leaked from the printing centre. TNPSC has engaged the printer to print question papers for many years now. A couple of accused persons in custody told police that they were part of the network that was operating for years. The modus operandi was to take candidates to a lodge and show them the question paper…this year they allowed some to scribble the questions on a piece of paper,” an investigator said.

Not ruling out the possibility of the leakage of TNPSC question papers in recent years, he said the accused were very choosy about the beneficiaries. “The printing centre in Kolkata also prints the question papers for school examinations. In the TNPSC question paper case, many school teachers were arrested and the involvement of a few more is suspected. These developments indicate that a well-organised network was operating…”

It was only a few months ago that the TNPSC roped in a new firm into the panel of printers. Since the volume of question papers for the Group-II Services examination to be printed was high, the order was given to the usual printer in Kolkata, the sources added.