By Mohammed Shafeeq
The question paper leak during the class 10 exams in Andhra Pradesh last year had rattled the education authorities with nearly 70 people including 45 teachers arrested for their alleged role in the leak in a few districts.
The managements of some private schools in collusion with a few teachers of government schools allegedly tried to help their students score good marks by leaking the papers soon after the papers reached the exam centres.
The teachers on duty at the exam centres allegedly took photos of the question papers and sent them into a few WhatsApp groups within minutes of the start of the exam.
Teachers known to students waited near the exam centres, wrote the answers and sent them back through water boys or others to the teachers inside, who then showed it to the students.
Officials said since question paper leaks before the exams is not possible due to fool-proof measures taken by the Board of Secondary School Certificate (SSC), some unscrupulous elements came out with this new method.
In the past, there were instances of question papers getting leaked before the commencement of the exams.
The SSC exam was held in April-May after a gap of two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Over 6 lakh students took the exams.
The leak started with the question paper of Telugu on April 27. Later the question papers of Mathematics and English were also leaked.
The teachers arrested in the case include 36 teachers from government schools. They were booked for criminal breach of trust and under the AP Public Examinations (prevention of malpractices and unfair means) Act 1997.
This was the first time that teachers were arrested under this Act.
"We have taken strict action against those involved. We will take more precautions next time to ensure that such incidents do not recur," said education minister Botsa Satyanarayana.
The arrests were made in Chittoor, Kadapa and Kurnool districts. In one case the Kurnool district police had arrested 12 persons including nine teachers.
Police investigations revealed that nine teachers from six schools hatched a plan to get the question paper leaked in a bid to get all the 183 students appearing for the examinations from these schools to pass without any difficulty.
They took the help of a school clerk and crafts teacher in getting the Telugu question paper leaked from Ankireddipalli Zilla Parishad High School from where the question paper was leaked through WhatsApp to other school teachers.
It emerged during the investigation that the school teachers tried to help the students with the answers with the help of the invigilators at the examination centres across the six schools.
The case took a political twist when the police arrested former minister and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) leader P. Narayana, founder of the Narayana Group of Institutions.
Narayana was taken into custody by the Chittoor police from his residence in Hyderabad and was brought to Chittoor town.
The Chittoor police had registered a case in connection with the leak of a question paper of the SSC exams. The case was booked after the Telugu question paper was leaked from an examination centre and circulated in a WhatsApp group.
The police had earlier also arrested Balagangadhar of the Narayana group in Tirupati in connection with the same case.
However, a court in Chittoor granted bail to Narayana after dismissing the arguments put forth by the police.
Narayana's counsel brought to the notice of the court that he resigned from the post of the chairman of the Narayana Group in 2014 and produced evidence in this regard. His counsel told the magistrate that Narayana is currently not involved in the functioning of the Narayana Group of institutions. The police failed to make a case for sending the former minister to judicial custody.
The opposition TDP had condemned Narayana's arrest and termed it as political vendetta by the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) government.
TDP general secretary Nara Lokesh termed it an 'illegal arrest' and alleged that the YS Jagan Mohan Reddy-led government was victimising the Opposition to cover up its failures. He also alleged political vendetta behind the arrest of Narayana.
However, state government advisor (Public Affairs) Sajjala Ramakrishna Reddy said the state sent a strong and unprecedented message that all are equal before the law.
Sajjala said that the action taken against Narayana was after a thorough investigation. He alleged that Narayana turned copying and other malpractices into an organized crime and emerged as a specialist in encouraging mass copying and question paper leaks to break records in achieving 100 per cent pass percentage.