Akanksha Agarwal stood 111 among more than 50,000 students who appeared for the Medical Entrance exam in Telangana which took place on July 9. With the CID now establishing that the exam paper was leaked, with nearly 200 students buying the question paper, the exam will be held for a third time on September 11.

 

“I would have secured admission to Osmania Medical College in Hyderabad, which is among the best, with my rank. But now that we have to appear for exams again, I have started going to college for classes. I am hoping to improve my rank this time,” says Akanksha, seeing the brighter side of things. Classes go on from 8:30 am to 4 pm, with Akanksha putting in another few hours of study once she is back. 

 

Not everyone is willing to forgive the government for its inability to conduct a fair exam. Another student Shreya says it is not easy to get back into the groove for the third time. “Many of us, with our ranks, would have got into the top three medical colleges in Telangana. Now you are asking us to forget all of this and start all over again,” says Shreya. 

 

Read more: Testing time for Telangana as entrance exam papers leaked

 

The Engineering, Agriculture and Medical Common Entrance Test or EAMCET, as it is commonly referred to, was first held on May 15 for admission to both private and government medical colleges as well as veterinary, pharmacy and biomedical courses. Since many students did not take the exam due to the confusion over National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), a second EAMCET exam for admission only to 2650 seats in government medical colleges in Telangana was held on July 9. 

 

EAMCET 2 was the victim of scamsters who operated through a well-coordinated and choreographed attempt to lure students and their parents. Calls were made to students even before they wrote EAMCET 1, with offers to either get a seat in a private medical college for ₹50 lakh to ₹1 crore.

 

If parents were keen on a government medical college, the racketeers offered to leak the question paper and even prepare them for it. That cost between ₹25 to 30 lakh. 

 

As part of the deal, these students were taken to an undisclosed location outside Telangana a couple of days before July 9, given the two sets of papers with 320 questions and even prepared with the answers.

 

During those two days, they were not allowed to be in touch with anyone including family. Mobile phones were not permitted and they were dropped back just before the exam. 

 

“The two brokers we have arrested on Thursday, for instance, took six students on July 7 to Kolkata by air. On July 8, they were given the papers in a hotel room and a practice test was conducted. The same night, they returned to Hyderabad,'' says Soumya Mishra, IGP of Telangana CID. 

 

The racket that is easily worth ₹2.5 to 5 crore was exposed thanks to the parent of a student in Warangal. G Ravi's daughter had appeared for the exam and he noticed that some of her `academically weak' classmates had secured marks far better than what their track record would suggest. When he probed further, he found out that all the suspect students were missing from home for 2-3 days before the July 9 exam. 

 

It is a major embarrassment for the intelligence department that such a massive racket, involving 200 students and their parents and 30-odd agents, went completely undetected.

 

The Telangana CID admits a well-managed machinery lured students, collecting money, taking the students to other cities, coaching them, besides, of course, procuring the papers. Only seven persons have been arrested so far and the kingpin of the racket has eluded the sleuths. 

 

Read more: Telangana scraps EAMCET-2 after question paper leak

 

Sources in the CID say it is the handiwork of some really smart operators. They suspect that people with a medical background or professors could be involved in helping with the answers to the question papers, a bit like in Sanjay Dutt's Munnabhai MBBS. Coaching institutes which provided the list of students to the racketeers for them to send SMSes and subsequently call to lure them with the offer of leaking the question paper are now under the radar. 

 

The challenge before the Telangana government - CID and the Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, which conducts the exam - is to ensure that a second leak doesn’t happen on September 11. In Karnataka earlier this year, the Chemistry paper for class 12 was leaked twice, cocking a snook at the education ministry. Officials in different departments were found to have links with those who leaked the papers in Karnataka. 

 

“The fact that the question paper in the most prestigious entrance exam in Telangana leaked, exposes the inefficiency of the public administration in the state government,'' says K Nageshwar, educationist. Angry parents ask if it is possible that a leak of this sort could have taken place, without anyone in the government apparatus having a hand in it. 

 

The opposition Congress wants heads to roll in the Telangana government, with the education and health ministers taking moral responsibility for the leakage. It also wants the case to be handled by the CBI. 

 

“There are too many loose ends in this case. We feel the CID is not capable of handling it and also because it comes under the state. Therefore the CBI should probe this,” says Aditya Sasidhar Reddy, Congress leader. 

 

What has shocked the students is that the government is allowing even the 200 students who have been accused of buying the papers, to sit for the September 11 exam.

 

“For the moment, we will allow these students to appear for the exam. What action is to be taken against them will be decided after the CID submits its report,” says K Srihari, Telangana deputy chief minister, who also holds the Education portfolio. Akanksha says, “It is very wrong to allow them to write the exam. It is because of them that so many students have to go through all of this again.”

 

The other worry for the students is the delay in the academic year. Srihari has promised that results will be announced by September 18 so that classes can start from October 1. There are many students who have appeared for the medical entrance exam in Andhra Pradesh too and are in a dilemma whether to join a college in the neighbouring state or take a chance with EAMCET 3 in September. 

 

KCR has tried to soothe ruffled feathers by waiving any entrance exam fee (₹500 for a general category student) and announcing free buses for those appearing for the exam. But that is a pittance compared to the extra fee (close to ₹30,000) students need to shell out to coaching institutes for an extra month of preparation for EAMCET 3.