Medical exam fraud is ‘biggest education scam’
Exam board officials, politicians, businessmen, doctors and middlemen have been implicated in the multi-million dollar racket across a number of states.
In the worst-hit central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, a former education minister in the state Laxmikant Sharma is currently under arrest in connection with the fraud.
Hundreds of students have been suspended in recent months for allegedly using “unfair means” to clear the Pre-Medical Test, or PMT, conducted between 2006 and 2013 and secure admission to undergraduate medical courses.
Dr CC Chaubal, a member of the Indian Medical Association, said “a large number of ineligible candidates, who had the money but not the ability, got admission in medical colleges at the cost of deserving students.
“Real candidates paid huge sums of money – to the gang or mediators who arranged the scorers or proxy candidates to appear in the entrance.” Scorers, middlemen and exam board officials all benefited, said Chaubal.
Police investigations revealed that students allegedly spent between Rs2.5 million and Rs4.2 million (US$40,000 and US$70,000) to secure admission.
Similar cases have been reported in the states of Kashmir, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Assam, where some students engaged proxies to sit the entrance examination on their behalf.
In some cases those who benefited from the fraud were able to live lavish lifestyles from the proceeds, including buying luxury cars and purchasing property in expensive areas in Delhi and other cities.
Although sporadic reports had trickled out since 2009, a tip-off last year from whistle-blower Dr Anand Rai, a health activist who has exposed clinical trial frauds, first led to the arrest of some of the proxy candidates from Indore district of Madhya Pradesh in July 2013, followed by arrests in other cities.
“The racket was operational in the state since 1994. Complaints were made to the authorities on many occasions, but the scam was kept under wraps for years as key officials of MPPEB and influential persons were involved," Rai told University World News.
The Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board – MPPEB – under the auspices of the state government organises the tests for admission to the state’s institutions. MPPEB officials are directly associated with conducting the examination.
According to police reports, some MPPEB officials allegedly admitted to receiving kickbacks to help candidates clear the test at the expense of more deserving candidates.
Lawyer Ananad Prakash’s daughter sat the PMT four times, but despite being a meritorious student she could not crack it in her first three attempts. Prakash blames this on corruption in conducting the entrance exam.
“My daughter secured 581st rank in her fourth attempt. She got the less coveted dental branch due to the low ranking. Had there been no corruption, she could have secured admission in a good government medical college at the very first attempt,” he told University World News.
A Madhya Pradesh police special task force investigation under High Court supervision has since April this year led to the cancellation of the enrolments of more than 1,100 medical students admitted to various medical colleges in the state, whose admissions are said to have been gained through fraudulent means.
The task force examined the answer sheets of a large number of candidates. If candidates were found giving the same answers for the questions and their wrong answers also matched in the multiple choice-style test they were considered to be involved in the scam and their admission was cancelled.
Many have already completed their medical education and are practising as doctors. Police have registered cases against them.
Dozens of officials have been arrested and are currently facing trial. They include MPPEB former controller of examinations Pankaj Trivedi, former systems analysts Nitin Mahindra and Ajay Sen, and the state PMT’s examination in-charge CK Mishra.
This August it emerged that some of those who played an active role in the MPPEB scam were also allegedly involved in rigging the All India PMT since 2004, according to police reports on the interrogation of those arrested – pointing to an even bigger countrywide racket.
Arrested proxy candidates revealed in statements that the mastermind of the racket was Indore-resident Dr Jagdish Sagar (42). He was arrested in July 2013.
On 26 August, quizzed by the police for over seven hours, Sagar admitted to running the racket for years.
Details have been emerging of his modus operandi. According to police reports, Sagar identified several meritorious students capable of clearing the medical entrance examination. The role of these brilliant students, also called ‘scorers’, was crucial for the entire scam.
When Sagar was approached by a large number of weak candidates wanting to clear the PMT, he allegedly arranged ‘scorers’ or proxy candidates for them.
The seating arrangement in the examination hall was manipulated in connivance with MPPEB officials so that the ‘scorer’ and the candidate sat next to each other, allowing the candidate to cheat from the scorer’s answer sheet.
Impersonation was another method used. The candidate’s photograph on the exam entry card was replaced with that of the scorer but all other information remained unchanged, enabling a scorer to gain entry to the examination in place of the candidate.
After the exam, the photograph was changed back to the original. The MPPEB officials were involved in all this, according to police.