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UP Police Recruitment Exam Cancelled: BJP Yields to Pressure Amid Paper Leak Allegations, Protests

After initially denying the allegations of a paper leak, the UP home department, under chief minister Adityanath, on Saturday afternoon, said it had directed the Uttar Pradesh Police Recruitment and Promotion Board to conduct fresh exams within six months.
The paper leak allegations would be probed by the UP Police Special Task Force. Photo: Unsplash

New Delhi: In response to extensive youth protests, the Yogi Adityanath-led Bharatiya Janata Party government, on February 24, yielded to pressure and cancelled the state police constable recruitment examination due to rampant complaints of question paper leaks and other irregularities throughout Uttar Pradesh.

Additionally, the government has initiated a probe into the recently-held examinations for 411 review officer and assistant review officer positions, following similar allegations.

Over 48 lakh aspirants – a huge number even by Uttar Pradesh’s standards as India’s most populous state – were competing for just 67,000 police constable positions.

Amid reports of irregularities and widespread paper leaks, aspirants took to the streets, staging demonstrations outside government offices across the state. They have demanded a fresh police constable examination.

The aspirants, cutting across castes and religion, also staged a massive protest outside the Uttar Pradesh Public Service Commission office in Prayagraj, putting the BJP government in a tight corner.

‘Govt’s denial mode, even after an aspirant filed an FIR alleging paper leak’

In Lucknow, thousands of aspirants gathered to protest at the Eco Garden. They chanted, “Ek hi nara, ek hi naam, re-exam, re-exam,” in a witty improvisation of the popular Hindutva slogan of the Sangh parivar, “Ek hi nara, ek hi naam, Jai Shri Ram, Jai Shri Ram.”

The slogan raised by the aspirants was a commentary on the current affairs of politics in the state where welfare issues are playing against the BJP’s Hindutva agenda ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha election.

After initially denying the allegations of a paper leak, the UP home department, under chief minister Adityanath, on Saturday afternoon, said it had directed the Uttar Pradesh Police Recruitment and Promotion Board (UPPRPB) to conduct fresh exams within six months.

The paper leak allegations would be probed by the UP Police Special Task Force.

On February 19, a police constable in Lucknow had lodged a first information report (FIR) over a paper leak in his exam centre, within hours after the two-day exam ended. Despite that, the BJP’s top leadership and officials continued to deny the allegations of paper leak.

The Wire has a copy of the FIR, which says that around 150 questions that were found in a paper chit, carried by an accused applicant to the exam centre, were featured in the question paper, indicating that the paper had been leaked in advance.

On February 23, deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya dismissed the allegations of paper leak, attributing it to an agenda by the Samajwadi Party (SP), and said that he had no information of any such irregularities.

Separately, a delegation of seven students met the UPPRPB director general, Renuka Mishra, and gave her a memorandum of demands. However, she did not openly admit to the paper leak. She said that the board was examining the applications of complaints sent on email by the aspirants who had alleged a paper leak.

Even on the days of the examination on February 17 and 18, the UPPRPB dismissed any paper leak allegations, saying that a preliminary probe found out that some “anti-social elements” had spread the rumour of a paper leak on social media after tampering with a document through the edit option on the Telegram app.

However, as the allegations kept pouring in and aspirants started raising objections on social media, the UPPRPB, on February 18, after the written tests were concluded, said it would “thoroughly verify” the “unverified news” that was trending on social media.

In the midst of the protests, the UPPRPB asked aspirants to submit evidence regarding the purported paper leak by the evening of February 23. They assured protesters that they would thoroughly examine the witnesses and evidence provided, and take subsequent action based on their findings.

With the Opposition parties, including the SP and the Congress, strongly backing the agitating aspirants during their protest, the cancellation of the constable recruitment exam has left the BJP government, which wanted to showcase its record of job creation before the election, red-faced.

As a damage-control measure, the government has said that whenever the exams are held again, the aspirants would be provided free transportation on the state-run buses.

The Adityanath government has instructed the UPPRPB, which is headed by a top IPS officer, to find out at what level the negligence took place and to lodge an FIR against the guilty.

The government said it cancelled the examination after scrutinising the “facts” and “information” of irregularities, aiming to maintain “transparency” and “sanctity” of the exams.

Adityanath said that tough action would be taken against the individuals and institutes found guilty in the matter.

Another case of paper leak

The government has also initiated a probe into the recently held examinations for the posts of Review Officers and Assistant Review Officers (February 11) and sought complaints by aspirants till February 27.

The Uttar Pradesh Police Constable Recruitment Examination 2023 was conducted in almost 2,400 centres across the state. From February 15 to 18, the state police, including the UP STF, said they arrested or detained at least 244 persons on charges of cheating in the examination, impersonating candidates for money, defrauding candidates by promising them success, and duping aspirants with the promise of leaking the paper to them. The arrests continued even after the conclusion of the exams. As of now, there is no confirmed final tally of the number of arrests made in connection with the matter.

Among those arrested were an Indian Navy deserter Monu Gurjar (from Shamli), who had allegedly tried to manipulate the exam; Anjani Kumar, a station master at the Singhiyaghat railway station in neighbouring Bihar, who allegedly sat in the exam as a “solver” in place of a candidate from Gorakhpur; an exam invigilator in Basti, who was allegedly caught tutoring candidates; and a former pradhan in Ghazipur district, who was part of a gang of manipulators. The police also arrested some people for allegedly spreading rumours that the paper had been leaked.

On February 23, Sanyukt Yuva Morcha, a forum for youth organisations, wrote to chief minister Adityanath, demanding that the cases lodged against the aspirants for criticising the government over the paper leak or for providing information about the lapse be withdrawn.

Earlier in February, Adityanath informed the state assembly that the BJP government had recruited 1.55 lakh police personnel, including 22,670 women, ever since it came to power. The last main recruitment was conducted in 2019, when examinations to fill 49,568 posts of civil and armed police personnel were held.

What does the FIR say

The FIR in the paper leak case was lodged at Krishna Nagar police station in Lucknow on February 19 at midnight, based on the complaint of constable Rambabu Singh.

A case was registered under Section 420 (cheating) of the Indian Penal Code, Section 66D of the Information Technology Act, and Sections 3 and 10 of the UP Public Examination (Prevention of Unfair Means) Act, 1998, against one candidate Satya Aman Kumar and an alleged racketter Neeraj Kumar, who, according to the police, provided Aman a copy of the questions before the exam.

The matter came to light when constable Ram Babu was informed by two invigilators at the City Modern Academy exam centre that a candidate was caught filling the OMR sheet with an illegal paper chit in his hand.

After tallying the chit with the question paper, the constable found that the questions were identical. Aman Kumar’s phone was inspected and it was found that Neeraj had sent him the correct answers on a paper through WhatsApp before the exam. Aman allegedly prepared the chit on the basis of the paper that Neeraj sent to him, said the FIR.

At least three SP MLAs, Atul Pradhan, Ragini Sonker, and Pinki Yadav, and one RLD MLA, Persann Kumar, had written to Adityanath saying that some aspirants from their constituency had informed them that the paper had been leaked on mobile phone and social media apps, much before the scheduled examination.

‘Big victory for student power’

Soon after the cancellation of the exam, SP chief Akhilesh Yadav said the decision was a “victory of the youth and the defeat of the machinations of the BJP government.” Yadav alleged that since the BJP government had earlier denied the paper leak, their admission now meant that the officers and criminals were in collusion and that they enjoyed the blessings of the government.

“But in the face of all the evidence, the government has been forced to bow down to avoid a historic defeat in the elections,” said Yadav, who had strongly backed the protests.

The former chief minister demanded that the BJP government return the fees collected by it through form submission, wondering if the huge sum running into crores would go into the BJP’s election fund.

“Now everyone has started to understand the truth of the game that the BJP government is playing with unemployed young men and women in the name of jobs. First they announce job vacancies for show, charge fees worth billions of rupees, allow the papers to be leaked and then pretend to cancel them… this game will prove very costly for BJP this time,” said Yadav.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who has been vocal in supporting the demands of the candidates during his Nyay Yatra in UP, said the cancellation of the exam was a “big victory for student power and unity of the youth.”

“The message is clear – no matter how much the government tries to suppress the truth, our rights can be won only by fighting unitedly. Those who unite will win, those who divide will be crushed,” said Gandhi.

His sister Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra, who had demanded a CBI probe into the paper leak, said the leak of papers of every examination in UP was not only a proof of the corruption prevalent in the BJP government but what was more serious was the careless and misleading attitude of the government.

Adityanath has, meanwhile, said that “there will be no compromise” with the sanctity of the examinations. “Those playing with the hard work of the youth will not be spared under any cost,” he said.

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