Patna: In a major reform of the system, mass cheating in Bihar may be curbed - and even become a thing of the past - if a plan to use high-tech gadgets and deploy extra security forces at exam centres bears fruit.
Mass cheating has been reported in Bihar for years and had become an annual feature hitting the news in March every year when reports and visuals of guardians and friends helping their wards surface on a regular basis.
Ahead of the Class 10 (matric) and Class 12 (intermediate) exams in Bihar in February and March, the education department has directed officials to began preparations for cheating-free exams by installing CCTV cameras and ordering videography and live webcasting of examination centres. Additional security forces are also being deployed.
"We have decided not to tolerate and compromise on this any more. The Grand Alliance-led government is committed to ensure cheating-free exams," Education Minister Ashok Choudhary told IANS.
Choudhary said stern measures would be taken against anyone attempting to cheat.
According to education department officials, nearly 14 lakh will appear for intermediate exams from the last week of February and around 15 lakh students will write the matriculation exams in March.
Lalkeshwar Prasad Singh, chairman of Bihar School Examination Board, said that CCTV cameras would be installed outside the exam centres and videography would be conducted inside the examination centres.
Thousands of security personnel would be deployed in and outside of examination centres. Officials said not more than three students would be allowed to sit on a bench during any exam to minimise the chances of cheating.
All district magistrates and superintendents of police have been asked to invoke Section 144 of the CrPC and ban illegal gatherings and groups at all examination centre an hour before exams begin. In addition, parents, guardians, family members and friends would be kept away from the centres.
At a high-level meeting chaired by chief secretary Anjani Kumar Singh here on Tuesday, it was decided that if cheating is reported from any centre, exams there would be cancelled and action taken against officials and teachers.
Gajender Sharma, a teacher at a government school in Arwal district, termed as a positive move the efforts to curb mass cheating at exams.
"It was shameful to see last year photographs going viral, nationally and internationally, showing people climbing a school wall in the state to fling answer sheets to students inside the building," Sharma said.
Manish Sahu, a leader of the National Students Union of India, said the state government's committment to ensure cheating free exams should be supported by all.
"Students,their parents and family should come forward to help concerned government agencies to conduct cheating-free exams," Sahu told IANS.
However, Manish Kumar Singh of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad seemed skeptical.
"It is big task and not possible," Singh told IANS.
After reports of mass cheating last year, the Patna High Court too directed the state police chief to deploy adequate security forces to ensure a check on cheating.
Last month the education department suspended four headmasters of government-run schools where large-scale cheating was reported in the 2015. Exam centres from where widespread cheating was reported would be blacklisted, officials said.
A retired school teacher, Amir Hasan, recalled how in 1996 when the Patna High Court took cognizance of rampant cheating in the state, only 12 per cent students could pass the board exam.
"Whenever authorities act tough in exams, the pass percentage falls drastically," he said.
(Imran Khan can be contacted at email@example.com)