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NEET Scandal: Exam Paper Leaks a Growing Crisis

Exam Paper Leaks in India: A Crisis of Fairness and Opportunity


NEET Scandal: Exam Paper Leaks a Growing Crisis

The persistent issue of exam paper leaks in India, highlighted recently by the NEET scandal, underscores a systemic failure that jeopardises the dreams and efforts of countless young aspirants. As the Supreme Court prepares to hear the petition seeking the cancellation of the NEET-UG 2024 exam over alleged paper leaks, the urgency of addressing this crisis has never been more apparent. The strenuous journey of young aspirants, who invest years and significant financial resources to crack recruitment exams, is often marred by incidents of paper leaks. The resultant anxiety and disappointment are compounded by the inaction and lack of appropriate measures to curb these leaks. This situation is particularly disheartening in the context of the 2024 Lok Sabha election results, which have highlighted how education and employment for the youth can become pivotal issues in political discourse.

 Scourge of Exam Paper Leaks

Exam paper leaks and scams have been an allegedly recurring issue in states like Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Bihar, causing widespread concern among young voters aged 18-25. An investigation by The Indian Express (“The big all India exam leak“, February 6) revealed that 41 paper leaks over the last five years in 15 states affected 1.4 crore job seekers who had applied for over one lakh vacancies. This rampant problem has led to exam cancellations and postponed recruitments for state-level government jobs, causing immense frustration among the youth.

Impact on Aspirants

Large-scale examinations, conducted through standardised testing, are often seen as a reliable mechanism in the educational framework. Globally, tests like the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and American College Testing (ACT) assess individual knowledge within a limited curriculum. However, replicating this model in recruitment processes in India, aimed at examining large numbers of candidates quickly, has led to significant issues. Aspirants from remote rural backgrounds and marginalised communities often bear the brunt of these challenges, incurring debts to pay for application fees, coaching centers, and other related expenses.

Preparing for these exams involves extensive planning, including migration to cities for coaching, taking up jobs that do not match their educational qualifications, and arranging alternative means of sustenance. The news of question paper leaks and subsequent exam cancellations can instantly shatter these meticulously crafted plans, turning dreams into despair.

 Recent Incidents and Political Ramifications (Add links to every incident in the para below)

In 2024, Uttar Pradesh saw three major competitive exams for government jobs hit by question paper leaks, with the UP police constable recruitment exam in February being the latest. Over 48 lakh candidates appeared for this exam, and the subsequent outrage among young aspirants significantly impacted the BJP’s poll prospects in the state. The Indian National Congress-led INDIA bloc capitalised on this uncertainty by promising fast-track courts and monetary compensation to affected aspirants. Similarly, Rajasthan has witnessed over 12 paper leaks during the Congress tenure, involving the state’s legislative elections in December 2023.

Each paper leak scandal raises a crucial question: What compensation is adequate for the years of labour, financial costs, and emotional toll incurred by lakhs of candidates? The fatigue of reappearing for exams and the fear of new aspirants joining the queue as exams get cancelled add to this burden.

NEET Scandal?

A significant political row has erupted following the announcement of this year’s National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) examination results on June 4, ten days before the scheduled date. The results have raised concerns over irregularities in awarding marks, with allegations of inflated scores resulting in 67 candidates achieving a perfect score of 720/720. Six of these toppers are from the same exam center in Haryana.

The National Testing Agency (NTA) has denied any irregularities, attributing the higher marks to changes in the NCERT textbooks, an easier exam, a surge in registrations, a question with two correct answers, and grace marks due to time lost at examination centers. Despite these explanations, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) Junior Doctors Network has demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry and a re-examination to ensure transparency.

Need for Action 

The inaction and lack of appropriate measures to curb exam paper leaks exacerbate anxiety and disappointment among youth. The involvement of commercial players, including coaching centers, printing presses, and consulting agencies, in these leaks underscores the need for a robust and transparent examination mechanism. Even after passing the Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) 2024, the government must question whether deploying special task forces to investigate organised cheating is constructive. The cancellation of recruitment procedures has further strained the already scarce job market.

For young aspirants, these exams represent their career prospects and their dreams of generational mobility. This crisis’s political and social implications are profound, as evidenced by the recent elections and the growing discontent among the youth. Implementing stringent measures to prevent leaks and ensure a fair and transparent examination process is imperative, thereby safeguarding the future of millions of young Indians.




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