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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Examgate reveals how VIP children rise to prize positions

‘VIP rooms’ at exam centres are privilege of politicians, paid clients

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Feb 3: Results of all the high and higher secondary examinations conducted by J&K State Board of School Education (BOSE) have become suspect not only with the exposure of unfair means used by the Education Minister’s foster son in Class 10th in the year 2009 but also by the “Distinction” he got in Class 12th yesterday.

Son of the slain JKLF commander Parvez Ahmed Bhat alias Parvez Billa, who later became senior Congress leader Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed’s foster son, was placed in a particular room at Centre No: 822 on “security grounds”. Fellow candidates and members of the examination staff insist that Imam Souban Bhat S/o Parvez Ahmed Bhat was also joined by sons of few other influential politicians and at least one more Minister, again on “security grounds”. Accounts under investigation and scrutiny of Early Times indicate a little different.

Verification process inconclusive, eyewitnesses maintain that rather than providing “security” to the sons of protected politicians, including Ministers, their PSOs, men from the local Police station, as well as officials of BOSE jostled against one another to facilitate copying of the VIP examinees. Books and other published material were kept on the disposal of these special candidates. How much exactly they copied and downloaded from the ‘dutiful’ subject experts is being obtained through an application under RTI.

With the investigation underway, declaration of results of Class 12th (regular) has brought surprises of sorts to thousands of students and their parents in Kashmir valley. Education Minister’s foster son, who reportedly required two different teachers to write answers of his Class 10th Urdu paper, has done the veritable miracle. According to the result gazette, Imam Souban Bhat (Roll No: 822260) has secured the highest of 96/100 in Sociology---as many as 78/80 in theory, 4/5 in internal and 14/15 in external.

With 81/100 in Political Science, 73/100 in English, 71/100 in Education and 66/100 in Functional English, the Education Minister’s foster son has secured 387/500 or 77.40% marks in Class 12th that happens to be the qualifying examination for all professional training courses and Degrees in Medicine, Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture Sciences, Engineering etc. How the sons and daughters of the state’s mainstream politicians and a many bureaucrats crack the Entrance examination later has been already revealed in a separate matter that resulted in dismissal of another Cabinet Minister in 2010. And finally, how they beat all in making it to gazetted services through J&K State Public Service Commission and other channels has been unraveled in detail by Early Times and other newspapers, particularly in the year 2011.

This “distinction” has obviously become all the more sensational due to the fact that the candidate under cloud happens to be a permanent member of the family of Minister incharge School Education. The Minister is said to have an argument that “thousands” of candidates have secured the distinction and his son was not an exception. Fellow candidates and their parents insist that they would withdraw their accusations with unconditional apology if the candidate in question could speak on “ABC of Sociology” for two minutes before an independent panel of examiners.

Well placed sources in BOSE, as well as responsible office-bearers of a representative teachers’ forum revealed to this newspaper that placing “VIP and paid up clients” in special “VIP rooms” of examination centers, particularly in Srinagar and adjoining districts, was the worst kept secret of BOSE. According to them, children of influential politicians and bureaucrats are provided this completely illegal facility “out of goodwill”. Children of well-off businessmen, contractors and others categories are accommodated in “VIP rooms” on cash payment, ranging between Rs 10,000 to Rs 40,000 from each client.

As per an infamous modus operandi, the “VIP rooms” are often kept locked from outside to escape notice, not of the BOSE vigilance but of Police and common civilians. Teachers and other subject experts write the answers on blackboards and clean the same in a jiffy in case of a stranger entry. Books, published material as well as laptops and mobile phones are also permitted and even provided by the examiners. Sources insisted to make it clear that children of all politicians and bureaucrats were not the beneficiary of this “special arrangement”. “Quite a many of them are really brilliant. They fare well in all examinations and interviews and do not resort to unfair means”, said a senior functionary of the teachers’ organisation.

According to these highly reliable sources, everything from selection of Superintendent to Deputy Superintendent, as also selection of private public schools as examination centers was being done under a scheme. Lists of examination staff are sought from Chief Education Officers of different districts but “select people” are deployed with the argument that the CEO had sent the list very late. It has been pointed out to no less than Chairman, Secretary and Joint Secretaries of BOSE that adequately equipped government schools are being omitted and centers of particular schools are set up at particular private schools so as to carry out the fraudulent system. It has also been brought to their notice that even black-listed examiners and those illegally borrowed by Youth Services and Sports Department were being appointed year after year on particular centers. However, action has been taken in very few cases.

A number of parents , as well as teachers, claimed that conducting of Class 10th and Class 12th examinations alone was “a Rs 5 to 10 Crore industry” every year in the Valley. “Hundreds of old students appear only to get a Matriculation certificate as their recruitment in Railway and some other Central government departments remains a fixed deal. They comfortably pay Rs 40,000 each”, said an insider.

Chairman of BOSE, Dr Sheikh Bashir Ahmad, however, rubbishes most of these accounts. “I admit there are a number of black sheep in BOSE. I have ruthlessly acted against them and they have all joined hands against me. I rush the vigilance squads to the centers immediately I receive a complaint verbally, written or on telephone”, Sheikh said in a conversation with this journalist. He claimed that he had “closed down” at least a dozen of infamous centers and shifted them to other places in October-November 2011.


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