The Ministry of Human Resource Development on Friday came out with several firefighting measures to curtail the controversy over the leak of Class 10 Mathematics and Class 12 Economics question papers of the Central Board of Secondary Education, or CBSE. In what was termed as an imperfect, but the most viable solution, the HRD ministry decided to re-conduct exams in a manner in which the impact of the process failure is minimised on the students.
While accepting that it was indeed a process failure, the HRD ministry secretary Anil Swarup made it clear that the immediate priority of the government is to make things easy for the students as far as possible who are at the receiving end. He said that administrative decisions can be taken at a later stage and that those did not precede the students' interest in order of priority. Swaroop refused to fix accountability on anyone pending enquiry including the CBSE chairperson Anita Karwal who was part of the press conference but largely remained muted while assuring that due corrective measures would be taken after examining the whole process threadbare.
"We don't have any perfect answers available to us. We have limited set of information. It may not be a perfect decision, our immediate concern is that the children should not suffer. Children's interests are supreme. Other things can wait," Swarup said.
Here are key points from the education ministry's press conference:
1) Re-examination for Class 12 Economics to be held on 25 April: The education secretary said that keeping in mind the paucity of information on the exact impact of the leak, it is unfair to keep the students in limbo. He said that Class 12 was a critical academic level and given the fact that the students will have to partake in various college/university admission procedures, the ministry could not have waited for a detailed probe to come up with a solution. Therefore, the time and situation necessitated that a re-examination across the nation should be held as soon as possible.
2) Decision of re-exam for Class 10 Mathematics paper in next 15 days: Swarup said: "The leak was restricted to Delhi and Haryana, if at all a re-exam will happen, it will happen only in these states in July. A decision will be taken on this in the next 15 days." He said that the situation of Class 12 students was more critical but there was no similar urgency in case of Class 10. So, a final call will be taken after a thorough probe in the next 15 days, depending on the impact of the leak, even within these regions. Swarup said the decision to conduct fresh exams won't affect the date of publication of the results which usually happens in May end.
3) No re-exam for CBSE schools outside India: Swarup said that a re-exam will not be held for CBSE students outside India because the impact of the leak was limited to India only.
4) Decision on fixing the blame after probe: Swarup said that it would be unfair to fix the blame without thoroughly understanding the lapses. He said the Special Investigation Team is probing the matter and the perpetrators will be nailed after that. He also ruled out a possibility of sacking the CBSE chairperson Anita Karwal. "Action will be taken against whoever is responsible. But you cannot pre-empt the inquiry. Without inquiry action will not be possible. "There are two levels of inquiry - one is the police inquiry and the other is a departmental inquiry. We cannot say what exactly went wrong but we are trying to find out."
5) Wealth of misleading information delayed action on leak tip-off: Swarup confirmed the media reports claiming that an email warning of mathematics paper leak was received on Karwal's official ID a day before the exam. But in the CBSE chairperson's defence, he said that email was received around 1.30 am on 28 March. Karwal saw the email at 8.55 am the next morning and immediately notified the controller of examination. His report came only after 10 am when all examinations were underway. He also cited the sheer volume of such tip-offs, which turned out to be untrue, as the reason why CBSE did not cancel the exam outright and waited for a confirmation.
Karwal, however, came up with a slightly different clarification. She told reporters that the delay in cancellation of the exam was because the paper appended with the said email, wasn't the real paper. However, later on the complaint of a lot of students and following preliminary enquiry it was established that the paper was indeed leaked on the previous day.
Asked whether the government can guarantee that there will be no leaks in the future, Swarup said nobody can guarantee about the future. "I cannot guarantee that there will be no leakage in the future. But we will take all steps to see such leakage doesn't happen."
Swarup also did not comment on reports that six students were detained in Jharkhand's Chatra district in connection with the paper leak case.
Delhi Crime Branch has also been cracking down, and questioned 45 people since Thursday, including the administrators of the 10 WhatsApp groups, coaching centre's owner, 18 students and some tutors, about the leak.
The Delhi Crime Branch also "interacted" with the CBSE controller of examinations in connection with the leak to understand the examination process.
The Delhi Police has registered two cases. The first case in connection with the leak of the economics paper was lodged on 27 March and the case pertaining to the mathematics paper was lodged on 28 March, following a complaint by the regional director of the CBSE.
The cases were registered on charges of criminal breach of trust, cheating and criminal conspiracy.
In the complaint pertaining to the mathematics paper, the board has said that a day before the exam, an e-mail was received on the CBSE chairperson's official ID informing about the leak, the officials said.
In the mail the sender had stated that the mathematics paper was leaked on WhatsApp and that it should be cancelled, they said.
The mail also contained attachments of the handwritten mathematics paper allegedly leaked on WhatsApp, according to the complaint.
A Special Investigation Team (SIT) comprising two deputy commissioners of police, four assistant commissioners of police and five inspectors has been set up to investigate the matter.
The team is being supervised by the joint commissioner of police (crime).
The CBSE decision came as students and their parents took to the streets across India to denounce the question paper leak and, in some cases, demand the sacking of the CBSE head Anita Karwal. The leak and re-test has affected lakhs of students and forced their families to postpone or cancel planned holidays.
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Updated Date: Mar 31, 2018 08:54:16 IST