Mafia-style criminal gangs are selling leaked question papers to desperate Indian university students, writes Raghavendra Verma in New Delhi.
Senior academics are warning that students are resorting to ever-more expensive means of cheating to ensure success in competitive examinations.
"The problem is getting more serious day by day. For a limited number of seats in medical, engineering and management institutions, an increasing number of students, with the active support of parents, are trying to succeed by hook or by crook," said K.K. Jha, former vice-chancellor of Patna University. "We urgently need modification in monitoring systems to counter this moral degradation."
A gang leader, in custody since October 2003, is on trial in Patna High Court for allegedly distributing the expected questions for the April 2003 Central Pre-Medical Test and their answers to more than 200 students on the evening of the exam. The person is said to have booked 29 rooms in a hotel and rented a flat in Bombay to allow the test candidates to study the papers overnight. A continuing investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation has failed to identify the students.
The CBI alleged that the papers were obtained with an 11 million rupee (Pounds 141,000) bribe to a bank manager in whose vaults the papers were stored.
Syndicates scan commercially run coaching centres for students from affluent families and offer them chances to cheat. The Indian media, quoting CBI officials, reported that each student was expected to pay up to 1.1 million rupees depending on the exam.
Papers are taken from hacked computers, printing presses or during transportation. Last June, a pre-medical test for Uttar Pradesh University was postponed after police arrested four members of a cheating ring, including the owner of a local coaching institute who was allegedly selling the question paper. Also in June, parents demanded a rerun of an entrance examination at the Baba Farid University of Health Sciences, Punjab, after the papers were allegedly leaked.
Candidates also hire proxies to take their exams. "The nuisance of a photograph on the admission card has been dealt with. A digitally enhanced picture now morphs the likeness of the candidate and his proxy," according to one newspaper.