Police recruitment paper leak questions credibility of HP govt exams

The recent cancellation of the Himachal Pradesh Police constable recruitment exam following the paper leak has not only cast a shadow on the chief minister Jai Ram Thakur-led BJP government but also put a question mark on the fairness of similar exams conducted by other government departments in a state that ranks eighth on the country’s unemployment index.

As many as 75,803 candidates had appeared in the hour-long exam held at 81 centres across 11 districts to recruit 1,700 constables on March 27, the result of which was declared on April 5. Among the candidates, 60,454 were male and 14,563 female. Apart from them, 696 male candidates appeared for the post of driver. A total of 1.86 lakh candidates had appeared for the physical test.

Paper setting system changed

The armed police and the training wing are responsible for conducting the exam. The Himachal Police Recruitment Board is headed by an additional director general of police rank officer. However, in his absence, this time inspector general of police (APT) prepared the exam. The ADGP had before leaving for central deputation with the consent of the state director general of police Sanjay Kundu constituted two committees, one for the setting of the question paper and the other for printing of papers, while the IGP (APT) was given charge of the police recruitment board. Earlier, it was done by the IG rank officer himself, while the other had no information about where the papers were printed.

IG JP Singh transferred

Days after the government cancelled the exam, it transferred 2000-batch IPS officer JP Singh, the inspector general of the armed police and training, who was the police recruitment board chairman. Abhishek Trivedi, who is the ADGP, law and order, has been given the additional charge of ADGP, AP&T, with immediate effect.

Question paper sold for 6 lakh to 8 lakh

The special investigation team (SIT), headed by DIG (central range) Madhusudan, has arrested 13 people so far but initial probe points towards the involvement of police officers, too. The papers were purportedly leaked much before March. Those involved themselves contacted the candidates assuring them to provide a “sure shot question paper”. Each question paper was sold between 6 lakh to 8 lakh.

Candidates were taken to an undisclosed destination and were asked to memorise the paper.

The investigation points out that the question paper was sold to more than 200 youngsters and the number could increase as the SIT expands the investigation.

Oppn wants CBI inquiry

The opposition parties have raised a question on the SIT constituted by the government to probe the paper leak.

The state Congress wants a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry into the paper leak. “It is a complete mockery of the system. In this case, the police are both accused and judge. How can one expect a fair probe?” says Congress leader Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu.

Former director general of police ID Bhandari, who is the Aam Aadmi Party’s state spokesman, says “Those who have benefited from the question paper leak scored more than 65%, which was enough to clear the test. This cannot happen without connivance and it’s happening right under the government’s nose.”

Reacting to the criticism, state police chief Kundu says, “The SIT’s working is independent. The principles of investigation are the same: Evidence-based and dependent on scientific data and forensics. As long as these principles are followed, I don’t see a problem. Our case files are thoroughly studied legally by the judges. They have not pointed out anything so far.”

Malpractices in other papers

There have been allegations of malpractices in other recruitment exams, too. Seven people, including a college clerk, were arrested for allegedly leaking the question paper of junior office assistant (JOA) held by the Himachal Pradesh Subordinate Selection Board. Police uncovered the question paper leak after one of the candidates, Rakesh Kumar, was caught cheating at an examination centre in Sundernagar.

Nearly 1.5 lakh candidates had appeared for the exam at 517 centres for 300 posts of JOA.

On April 26, state education minister Govind Singh Thakur announced to form of a committee that would submit a report on the question paper leak, but there has been no progress after that.

Paper leak and the lag

March 27, 2022: Written test for police constable recruitment held. 75,803 candidates appear in the test across 81 centres set up across HP

April 5: Results for the written exam declared

April 18: Arki police arrest five after chat claiming paper leak goes viral; DGP rules out paper leak

May 5: Kangra police arrest three candidates and an employee of a private institution for involvement in the paper leak

May 6: Government cancels exam; SIT constituted

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