Saumya Singh returned from the examination centre on May 3, finding herself free for the first time in two years. The Delhi teenager had gone through the grind, attending coaching for medical entrance as well as working towards her class 12 board exams. She thought that now she would be carefree for the next few months, but that was not to be.
The All India Pre Medical Entrance Test (AIPMT) that she appeared for turned out to be terribly compromised. Over the next few days, news reports began coming out on a well-oiled, large scale cheating racket through which more than 700 students had been able to text their questions from the exam hall and receive answers. The cheating syndicate in Haryana had hired qualified people to answer the queries. The Haryana police subsequently arrested 12 people and revealed that students from ten states were beneficiaries of the racket.
A group of outraged parents appealed to the Supreme Court, which stayed the June 5 results and later ordered the Central Board of Secondary Education to have a re exam in four weeks. The retest was finally set for July 25, with results to be out by August 17, so that there will be minimum delay in the new MBBS term.
The AIPMT is the biggest medical entrance test in the country, filling in 15 per cent of the merit positions in medical and dental colleges across India. Several state governments and private universities, too, use the AIPMT rankings to fill in seats under them. This year, 6.3 lakh appeared for the test against 2,000 vacancies.
It is in these figures, which depict the wide gap between demand and supply, that one understands the thriving business of cheating. It is not the first time that such scams have rocked entrance tests. This year, the Uttar Pradesh Combined PMT was rocked by a similar cheating scam. But, this is the first time in recent memory that such a big exam has been reordered.
“It sends the right message,” says cardiologist Ashok Seth, a Medical Council of India governing body member. “The sanctity of the test is imperative, especially when there is such a small difference that determines who is in and who isn't. There is no other way to weed out the rot apart from scrapping a compromised exam.”
The racket that has come to light reveals that it could not have succeeded without inside help. The beneficiaries, who had paid up to Rs17 lakh each, were fitted with special vests, sourced from a shop in Delhi, that could accommodate electronic gadgets like bluetooth and cell phones. Kingpin Roop Singh Dangi had spread his net across several states and this wasn't the first time he was doing this. Two arrested medical students, Vijay Yadav from Banaras Hindu University and Rahul Verma from Lucknow's King George's Medical University, admitted to not just facilitating this year's cheating but also having benefitted themselves similarly in the past. Ongoing police probes are unravelling just how deep and widespread the racket is, and how high are the stakes involved.
But the developments have been harsh on the lakhs of innocent students. There is Tapan Sharma who is glad to get another shot at the test, saying that if you don't crack a fair exam, then you don't blame the system at least. Saumya, however, says, “We are students, not machines that can be switched on and off anytime.” But she marvels at how candidates walked in with electronically fitted vests when even pens are not allowed inside the exam hall. Ashutosh Modi of EntrancePrime, an online entrance preparation portal, however, says most students are well prepared and just have to brush up, for which a month is good enough time.