PSI exam scam casts shadow on most govt. recruitment tests

Since most recruitment exams follow same pattern, there are concerns that similar malpractices may have occurred in other exam, say officials

May 08, 2022 02:40 am | Updated 10:14 pm IST - Bengaluru

Divya Hagaragi, BJP leader and an accused in PSI recruitment exam scam. File

Divya Hagaragi, BJP leader and an accused in PSI recruitment exam scam. File | Photo Credit: The Hindu photo library

The Police Sub Inspector (PSI) recruitment scam uncovered recently and the modus operandi used to subvert the system has not only cast a shadow over other police recruitments, but also most other recruitment exams held by the State Government. 

There had been allegations of malpractices using similar methods in other recruitment exams, including those held by Karnataka State Public Service Commission. A few accused touts in the PSI recruitment scam had also been accused in the PWD assistant engineer recruitment exam malpractices of 2021, indicating organised groups of touts have been actively rigging recruitment exams. Several coaching centres preparing students for competitive exams have also emerged as fertile grounds for such malpractices and for touts to broker deals, police officials said. 

Rudragouda Patil, another accused in the PSI exam scam

Rudragouda Patil, another accused in the PSI exam scam | Photo Credit: File photo

Two ways of cheating

The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) probing the PSI recruitment scam has uncovered two methods using which the candidates have cheated to score high marks. To avoid subjectivity in evaluation and corruption, most recruitment tests now progressively focus on multiple choice questions that the candidates need to fill in an OMR sheet, with a carbon copy for the candidate. However, that system itself seems to have helped malpractices.

“Since most recruitment exams follow the same pattern, there are concerns that similar malpractices may have occurred in other exams. It was only by chance that the malpractices at the PSI recruitment exam were uncovered,” a senior police official said. A failed candidate accessed the carbon copy of a successful candidate and found he had not even answered enough questions to score what the results said, and put it out on social media, leading to allegations of widespread corruption.

The candidates had left OMR sheets unanswered and invigilators later filled them up with correct answers. “Till 2016, police officials used to be invigilators for these exams. But following allegations that they helped candidates, the department outsourced invigilation to those working at educational institutions that are selected as exam centres. However, most malpractices have occurred at these centres with help by these invigilators,” an officer explained.

CID is presently getting all 545 OMR sheets of all selected candidates forensically analysed. “Till date, just over 100 OMR sheets have been analysed, of which FSL has reported 30 of them were tampered with. As many as 24 of these 30 candidates have been arrested and the remaining six are still at large. As and when FSL completes the forensic analysis of the remaining papers, those who are found to have indulged in malpractices may only shoot up further,” a senior CID official said.

Bluetooth device

Yet another mode of malpractice was use of a Bluetooth device. Aspiring PSI candidates were given Bluetooth devices through which some experts who accessed the question paper after the exam began helped candidates with the answers.

Multiple recruitment exams by the State Government have seen candidates caught with Bluetooth devices, leading to the government deploying metal detectors to detect these devices. “However, the Bluetooth devices used in the PSI recruitment exams are very sophisticated, small, skin coloured and are entirely made of plastic and are not detected by metal detectors,” a senior police official said. 

Role recruitment cell?

The CID is yet to uncover any evidence of involvement of those at the Police Recruitment Cell, who held the exams, sources said. “All malpractices uncovered during the probe, have occurred at the exam centres - either through Bluetooth or tampering OMR sheets. The recruitment cell has no role in carrying out these malpractices. Even the selection of exam centres has been completely decentralised and it is the district superintendents of police who choose the centres, not the Cell,” explained a senior police official. However, CID sources said that the probe is yet to reach the Cell and they would spare none if they find evidence of malpractice. 

Meanwhile, each of the 92 exam centres were assigned with a DySP rank officer to oversee the exams. Till date, CID has uncovered malpractices at two centres in Kalaburagi and 7 centres in Bengaluru, while it suspects malpractices in over 10 other centres. CID will likely serve notices to over 20 DySPs in charge of these centres to join the probe. 

Setback for recruitment

The 90,000-plus strong Karnataka State Police, which had been suffering with over 30% vacancies, has taken up an aggressive recruitment drive since 2016, with an aim to have no vacancies by 2023-24. “The PSI recruitment scam and the cancellation of the selection list, is a big setback for the recruitment drive and will take time to recover from it and resume an aggressive recruitment drive,” a senior official lamented. 

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