The Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) Main is a central standardised computer-based test for admission to undergraduate programs in engineering, architecture, and planning courses across India. At the time when online examinations were introduced within these competitive exams, many said that malpractices such as cheating and impersonation would be curbed to a great extent.
However, as technology advanced, people began looking in for loopholes and found their way around cheating. So despite the number of experts and softwares that were employed to prepare the question banks and provide it through random algorithms, there were still scams that were being reported. Exam-riggers began subverting the systems even from distant locations and centres, making it difficult to track them down.
The 2021 Scam
One such case of reported cheating was the scam that came about during the JEE Mains of 2021. The Delhi Cyber Cell had busted a massive racket involving international and national citizens who cashed in about ₹60-70 crores around every exam season.
A report by the Indian Express says that this racket allegedly helped aspirants to cheat in the GMAT and JEE exams at a charge of ₹8-10 Lakhs per candidate. Many aspirants who have been attempting for years or those who looked for an easy way out would comply with their demands and secure top ranks.
Within a span of ten days of the scam has come to light, the Police were able to arrest a group of hackers, exam solvers, trainers and coaching institute owners. As per a report by LiveMint, those who were arrested revealed that they had hired Russian hackers, who developed software that gave them access to the computers at the examination centres.
In the recent updates of this case, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested a Russian national Mikhail Shargin (25), for his role in the scam. As per official statements, he allegedly tampered with the iLeon software, the platform on which the JEE (Main)-2021 examination was conducted. Further investigation showed that many more foreign nationals were involved in compromising such online examinations, including JEE (Mains).
After Shargin's arrest on October 3, reports suggested that he aided over 800 students to cheat in the competitive exams and get admitted to India's top engineering colleges, such as the IITs. This was a huge leap from the initially suspected students, not more than 20 in number.
As the 2021 scam continues to reveal worrying details, many students have come forth expressing their distress and a need for fair examinations.
Student's Futures Put On The Line For Lakhs Of Rupees
When the scam was unearthed, several politicians had come to the forefront demanding justice for the students. Among them was Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who tweeted that the nation owes fair examinations to the students who battled various difficulties for such competitive exams.
Students and parents who were distressed by the repeated reports of scams and irregularities in the examinations also took to the streets protesting for fair examinations. One among the students from Delhi University who had witnessed the entire event spoke to The Logical Indian, "It was a news that took Delhi by a storm, and definitely wasn't a pleasant day for the students who studied day in and out for these competitive exams."
She added instances of her relatives who would give over six to ten attempts for an examination that was not even fairly conducted. "It makes you question the education system that you so dedicatedly put many years of your life into, and it is disappointing to see their efforts getting replaced by candidates who made it to the top with a bunch of currency notes."
Ardra, who will be giving her second attempt from the Thiruvananthapuram Center, told The Logical Indian, "Scams like this affect every student. We double our efforts, but even that goes in vain. I'll be giving my second attempt, but there are many whom I know who have been trying for years."
She believes fair examinations can be ensured by debarring the students for a longer period and incorporating stricter investigations.
At the time when news about the scams had come about, several students were demanding authorities cancel the entire exam and reconduct one for everyone. During this time, several students also revealed that they had received anonymous calls asking if they wanted to join top tech institutions with guaranteed admissions.
Another student from Assam who chose to remain anonymous mentions how despite the increasing strictness in the examinations, people continue to find ways to cheat. "For JEE, we have at least ten centres by this point in time. But as news on remote scams came about, we could see regulations get stricter, and at some point, manipulators also adapted their techniques."
What came across as a surprise to many among the student communities and aspirants was the massive scale of the racket. Not many were aware of the international links that were associated with the rackets until after the arrest on October 3.
Many students, like the ones we had the opportunity to speak to, expect to see fair conduct of examination that would do justice to the years of effort they invested into a seat in the competitive posts.
Also Read: #ChaloJantarMantar: Students, Parents, Activists Protest Over Glitches In NEET, JEE, CUET Exams