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NEET-UG Paper Leak Row: CBI Arrests Two in Patna

NEET-UG Paper Leak Row: CBI Arrests Two in Patna

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, June 27: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has made its first arrests in the NEET-UG paper leak case in Bihar, detaining two individuals from Patna, officials said on Thursday.

Manish Kumar and Ashutosh Kumar allegedly provided safe premises to the aspirants before the examination where they were given leaked question papers and the answer keys. The NEET-UG is conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA) for admissions to MBBS, BDS, AYUSH and other related courses in government and private institutions across the country.

This year’s examination was conducted on May 5 at 4,750 centres in 571 cities, including 14 abroad. Over 24 lakh candidates appeared for the test.

According to CBI sources, Manish Kumar facilitated the transportation of students in his car and is suspected of providing the use of an empty school where at least two dozen students were given the leaked paper and memorised it, while Ashutosh provided lodging for the students at his residence.

The two men had been called by the agency for questioning on Thursday and they were arrested after that. The CBI has registered six First Information Reports (FIRs) in the NEET paper leak case with the first being on Sunday, a day after the Ministry of Education announced that the investigation would be handed over to the central agency.

Before the CBI arrests, the police had also taken some people into custody in Bihar, Maharashtra and Delhi. These included an aspirant who said he and a few others had got a copy of the question paper a day before the exam.

The issue has also snowballed into a massive political controversy and it found mention in President Droupadi Murmu’s address to a joint sitting of both houses of Parliament on Thursday. The President said the government was “committed to a fair investigation” and gave an assurance that the culprits would get strict punishment.

“The recent irregularities and paper leaks are being dealt with strongly and the government’s focus is on improving the exam process,” she said. The comments caused an uproar from the opposition benches. The INDIA bloc, which has 232 Lok Sabha MPs now, is gearing up to corner the government on the matter in Parliament during the ongoing session. The youth wing of the Congress is also staging a protest at Jantar Mantar.

“Such incidents (leaked question papers) have happened in many states… there is a need for measures beyond politics,” the president told assembled MPs from the ruling and opposition parties.

Concerns over the NEET exam were flagged after an unusually high number of students – a record 67, including six from one coaching centre – scored a perfect 720 in an uber-competitive exam. There were also red flags over ‘grace marks’ to 1,563 students. On paper these were for students who ran out of time, but it was later confirmed there was no protocol for award of such marks.

The CBI was tasked with investigating allegations of leaked question papers and criminal gangs, dubbed ‘solver gangs’. Multiple arrests – from Bihar, Delhi, and Maharashtra have been made so far. Among the four men arrested from Bihar was Anurag Yadav, a NEET aspirant who confessed that he, and his friends, had received copies of the question paper 24 hours before the exam.

Yadav – who was prepping at coaching centre in Rajasthan’s Kota – told cops he had been summoned home by his uncle, Sikandar P Yadavendu, a municipal employee who purchased copies of the question paper from two other accused, and sold them for a profit to Yadav’s friends. Other arrested include Sanjeev Mukhiya from Bihar, claimed to be the “mastermind,” and Iranna Kongalwar from Maharashtra, who ran a coaching centre in the city of Latur. A CBI team also visited a school in Hazaribag in Jharkhand and questioned its principal.

The CBI sources have said a nationwide racket run by a handful of key individuals was likely to be behind various leaked question papers, including for NEET, UGC-NET (for appointment to professorial posts in colleges and universities) and qualifying exams for state police forces. Many of these exams are conducted by the National Testing Agency, a central body under fierce scrutiny after the NEET and NET rows, and which received a Supreme Court notice.

Days after the NEET controversy broke the government voided the results of the UGC-NET exam, 48 hours after it was held; this was based on police input that said the paper may have been leaked.

The sordid scenario took a predictable political twist too, with members of the opposition – particularly the Congress-led INDIA bloc – targeting the ruling BJP. The government hit back by claiming connections between ex-Bihar Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav, whose RJD is part of the INDIA group, and Yadavendu. The RJD denied the claim and accused the BJP of trying to shift focus.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi called BJP-ruled states the “epicentre of paper leak”; the reference was to cops busting a massive paper leak racket for the Uttar Pradesh Police Constable exam.




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