The menace of paper leaks in Gujarat

Recruitments are marred by the fact that they are manned by the ruling party

Updated - April 20, 2023 01:06 pm IST

Published - April 20, 2023 12:50 am IST

Since 2015, Gujarat has not been able to hold even one recruitment exam without a paper leak controversy. Image for representation.

Since 2015, Gujarat has not been able to hold even one recruitment exam without a paper leak controversy. Image for representation. | Photo Credit: AP

On April 16, the Bhavnagar Police in Gujarat lodged a first-hand information (FIR), busting a State-wide racket that provides dummy (or imposter) candidates for attending government recruitment exams and board examinations on behalf of other candidates in the State. 

So far, the police have arrested six persons, including four masterminds out of which three are government employees, and two others who have been arrested are also government employees, who had appeared as imposter candidates.

In the FIR, the police have booked 36 persons and stated that the accused used to charge from ₹5 lakh to ₹10 lakh for finding a dummy and facilitate entry of that dummy into the examination hall for taking the examination on behalf of the original candidate. The dummy candidates were paid ₹25,000 per paper. 

The police have claimed that the racket in Bhavnagar flourished since 2012.

In fact, for more than a decade, with almost dozen instance of paper leaks of different recruitment exams, the State’s recruitment exams have been marred with controversies regarding paper leaks, corruption or rigging the recruitment. Since 2015, the State, which boasts about its governance and administrative acumen, has not been able to hold even one recruitment exam without a paper leak controversy. 

To deal with the menace, the State government, this year, enacted a special law to curb the activities of paper leaks and restore the sanctity in the recruitment process. The Gujarat Public Examination (Prevention of Unfair Means) Bill, 2023, has prescribed maximum punishment of 10 years of imprisonment and fine not less than ₹1 crore for indulging in “organised crime” of paper leak. According to the Bill, its provisions are applicable to examinations conducted by various agencies in the State.

“It is the need of the hour to bring a stringent law against paper leak. Due to the absence of a special law, accused in paper leak cases were taking advantage of loopholes in the prevalent law,” Minister of State for Home Harsh Sanghvi said, while introducing the Bill in the State Assembly. 

The State government was prompted to bring the law after it came under severe flak following a paper leak in the recruitment for the junior clerk exam in January this year. The exam was called off leading to State-wide protests by youth. A total of 9.5 lakh aspirants were to take the recruitment examination for 1,181 vacant positions. 

In the last decade, recruitment exams were cancelled for chief officer of municipality, teachers in government schools, clerks for district panchayats and State administration, forest guards, and even nurses for the health department after paper leaks. 

Last year, in its report, the Gujarat State Law Commission (GSLC), in a severe indictment of the State government, had recommended bringing a stringent law to curb the menace of paper leak in recruitment exams. 

Headed by former Supreme Court judge M.B. Shah, the Commission had stated that “rampantly increasing incidents of paper leak in recruitment exams in Gujarat is creating difficulty amongst youth who seriously prepare for such exams”.

“One of the reasons behind paper leaks is the involvement of influential people in the State government, but unfortunately they are never caught,” the report stated.

According to Gujarat Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi, who has been tracking recruitment exams conducted by various State entities, all agencies recruiting the staff are corrupt. “In Gujarat, people linked to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are appointed heads of various recruitment agencies. They are involved in the rigging. All recruitment agencies are epicentres of corruption in the State,” Mr. Doshi said.

Giving the example of the RSS/BJP-affiliated people manning the recruitment agencies, Mr. Doshi said former Ahmedabad Mayor Asit Vora was the chairman of the Gujarat Subordinate Services Selection Board (GSSSB), which had conducted the exam for head clerks in which the paper was leaked. Mr. Vora had to resign after the exam was cancelled. 

The State needs to strengthen its agencies in charge of recruitment by appointing professionals instead of manning them with ruling party functionaries.

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