Explained: What is the Rajasthan issue document leak scandal and how did Gehlot’s government respond to REET irregularities?

Congress government in Rajasthan faces a major embarrassment after police investigations revealed that the questionnaire for the Rajasthan Teacher Eligibility Examination (REET), which was held on September 26 last year, was leaked two days before the exam. The police investigation revealed that a questionnaire was stolen from an office of the state education department and later leaked, and the defendants received at least Rs. 1.22 crore in paper exchange.

Alleging the involvement of politicians and public figures behind the paper leak, the opposition is now demanding a CBI investigation. The Rajasthan government has taken action against senior officials of the Rajasthan Board of Secondary Education (RBSE), which was given the responsibility to conduct the REET, with the police also questioning board officials. The chairman of the board was fired while his secretary was suspended. The state government also said that in the next budget session it would pass a “strict law” against copying and cheating in recruitment exams.

What is REET?

The Rajasthan Eligibility Examination for Teachers (REET) is the eligibility test for the direct recruitment of public primary and tertiary school teachers in Rajasthan. The REET held in September last year involved about 31,000 positions, for which more than 16 lakh candidates were vying.

The REET qualification is the basic prerequisite to apply for these positions. The exam is conducted by the RBSE, who is also responsible for most of the exam-related arrangements, including the definition of questions. Due to the scale of the examination, each district administration also took care of the arrangements, with a large deployment of police forces and free government-provided bus travel for candidates. The exam has already taken place in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2017. Due to the four-year gap between the last exam in 2017 and the last REET in 2021, a large number of candidates were waiting for the exam to be announced.

At a test center in Jaipur in September 2021. (Express Photo: Rohit Jain Paras)

How did the paper leak despite a statewide internet shutdown?

On September 26, the government led by Ashok Gehlot suspended internet services in various locations across the state to avoid irregularities in the examination. At the time, the internet shutdown made national headlines and the government also drew criticism over the inconvenience caused to the public by the move. opposition The BJP had ridiculed the Congress governmentthe party’s state chairman, Satish Poonia, stating that “while the Congress party raises questions when the internet is shut down in Jammu and Kashmir to stop the activities of terrorists, but when the internet is shut down here , they call it valid”.

Immediately after the examination, allegations of irregularities surfaced. Rajasthan police had said on September 26 – the day of the REET’s detention – that Bikaner police had recovered Bluetooth devices from slippers of some of those arrested. In many towns, these devices were priced at Rs. 6-7 lakh, police had said in a statement. Subsequently, the government of Rajasthan suspended several government officials including teachers, officers of the Rajasthan Police Service (RPS) and the Rajasthan Administrative Service (RAS) for irregularities in the examination.

While the Rajasthan government initially denied the opposition’s allegations of the issue paper leaking, in its investigation, the Rajasthan Police’s Special Operations Group (SOG) found evidence that the paper had indeed been disclosed. Prior to this confirmation, the SOG had arrested several people allegedly involved in the leak, including Batti Lal Meena and Bhajan Lal, who led the agencies to the person who allegedly leaked the paper.

According to SOG ADG Ashok Rathore, the questionnaire was stolen and leaked from Shiksha Sankul – the Jaipur campus where several offices of education-related departments as well as educational institutions are located – on September 24, two days before the REET.

The SOG said a man named Ramkripal Meena, who was employed by the district coordinator for the REET examination, stole a questionnaire after opening the envelope when the documents arrived at the Shiksha Sankul. The SOG has since also interviewed Pradeep Parashar, the district coordinator who hired Meena.

According to the SOG, Meena contacted an Udaram Bishnoi and the paper was leaked in at least seven locations across the state. Till date, Meena has received Rs. 1.22 crore in exchange for the questionnaire, police have revealed.

Prior to the arrest of the person who leaked the diary, the SOG and Rajasthan Police had arrested a number of defendants, including candidates who had received the diary and those who had made it available. To date, 35 defendants have been arrested in the case, 13 of whom were candidates who received the leaked questionnaire. The SOG said it tries to identify all candidates who come to the exam with prior knowledge of the questionnaire.

With more arrests on the map, the SOG is also investigating the possible role of education department and RBSE officials in the case and also visited the RBSE headquarters in Ajmer.

What happens after the REET results?

After the results of the REET examination, which have already been announced, candidates are currently sending in applications for the positions of primary and upper primary teachers in two categories – level I which concerns classes 1-5 and Level II which involves classes 6-8. The SOG is currently investigating the Level I exam paper leak.

“After the result, the candidates must apply for the positions and together with the REET certificate of achievement, they will have to attach their teaching qualification certificates. The government will then prepare the merit list based on their REET score and education certificates after fulfilling all booking requirements,” said Vipin Sharma, Senior Vice President, Rajasthan Prathamik Evam Madhyamik Shikshak Sangh.

He added that REET is particularly popular among young unemployed people due to the large number of vacancies and the highest qualification required is only graduation and B.Ed.

What was the government’s reaction to REET’s irregularities?

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said a high-level committee under the chairmanship of a retired High Court judge is being set up which will make suggestions regarding the smooth and uninterrupted conduct of recruitment exams at the future.

While the government has yet to release details about the commission or when it will submit its report, CM Gehlot said that gangs operating in an organized manner and involved in crimes such as leaking paper, are a matter of concern and there is a need to fully investigate all these issues.

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What is the Anti Paper Leakage Bill that has been announced by the government of Rajasthan?

Shortly after irregularities surfaced in the REET, associations representing unemployed youth staged protests, demanding a tough, unbailable law against those involved in the questionnaire leak and other irregularities in public recruitment examinations. On Saturday, Gehlot said that in the next budget session, the government will introduce a bill containing “strict provisions” against copying and leaking paper.

The government is expected to add a provision punishing the use of unfair means in examinations to a seven-year jail term and also make it a non-bailable offence. The Chief Minister also said that in case of leaking papers, fictitious candidates and cheating in such examinations, where the involvement of government officials is found, such people will be dismissed from state service.

At present, the state has the Public Review of Rajasthan (Prevention of Unfair Means) Act 1992 for similar offences. Other states such as Haryana and Uttar Pradesh also have similar laws. It is believed that the new bill will further strengthen this existing law.

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