Question paper leaks are commonplace in Bangladesh. Too many people start their academic or professional careers by passing exams with the help of leaked question papers.
But who is behind this nefarious and vile flouting of laws and regulations? The Bangla Tribune has discovered that specially trained students, political leaders wielding power, employees at educational institutions and coaching centres are intricately involved in the series of process that leads to question paper leaks.
Before the exams start, there is a race to find exam candidates who want to cheat to pass. Either the candidates track down the syndicates or the syndicates reach out to interested candidates.
Sumon Talukdar, a member of one such fraud syndicate, said: “Sometimes the candidates reach out to us, based on previous engagement, or through referrals by people who have previously engaged us. Then again, we also make offers to candidates through acquaintances and reliable persons to ensure that they can rely on us. In addition, those who have already passed exams with our assistance are instructed to search for candidates in the future.”
Charges vary from person to person. But the range of the charges is determined by the type of the exam or the job, according to members of different fraud syndicates.
Leaking from the centre
After the syndicate and the candidates confirm the deal, they prepare their operation. Although they claim it is hard to dodge the law enforcement agencies and invigilators, they carry out their tasks on a routine basis. Their prime targets are locations which host exams more frequently. The exam centres are staked out about three to four months in advance, their employees bribed to facilitate the crime. Employees in the lower rungs of the organisation are usually targeted. These inside men help alter the seating charts to ensure the leaker candidates are facilitated in their operation.
Former Dhaka University student Aminur Rahman, who is involved with question paper leaks, said: “Even if the question is leaked from just one exam centre, the seating plans are changed in all the centres. So we have our chosen candidates sit where exactly we want them to sit. The centre employees are the ones who take care of this the day before the exam.”
He further said: “The advantage of changing the seat plan is that it is easier to evade the watchful eyes of the invigilators. If one is able to dodge the surveillance, it is easier for him or her to use advanced communication devices.
“Question papers are leaked from the exam centres somewhere between their arrival to the exam centre and the distribution. The question papers come in sealed envelopes and generally carried by the third-grade employees. They tear the envelop open and supply the question paper to our team who wait outside the exam centre.”
The leaked question script is solved very quickly and Xerox copies are sent back to the exam centre. The solvers are picked from among those who had earlier qualified up to the viva-voce of exams. The entire process is done very, very quickly.
The syndicate prepares motorcycles and microbuses for quick transportation. A photocopy shop near the exam centre is essentially rented out after bribing the owner. The owners are offered to be paid double their usual earnings during half a day’s sales. The syndicate photocopies the scripts, but ensures there are no identifiers on the paper. The whole process is witnessed by shop owners or employees.
After the photocopy, the original script is sent back to the halls and the copies are sent to the solvers.
A question paper solver told this correspondent: “A team of six to eight solvers remain standing by to solve the question paper. They are specialised in different subjects of the exam. After the work is done, a solver receives as high an amount as Tk50,000. The payment may be Tk10,000, Tk20,000 or Tk30,000 in the lower range.”
According to reliable sources at an intelligence agency, the syndicates select suitable spots to solve the question papers. The spots include the room of senior leaders of student organisations in the dormitories of Dhaka University and other major education institutions, residences in MP hostel, the grounds at MP hostel premises, coaching centres and the guest rooms of dormitories. The location is picked considering the proximity to the exam centre where the questions are leaked.
Another solver said that they receive the leaked question papers about 10-15 minutes before the exams start. The team of solvers take around 20-30 minutes to finish their job. Another team works simultaneously to find out via SMS who among the examinees have exactly which set of questions. They ensure the examinees get the corresponding solutions. Text messages are exchanged over homemade, improvised, electronic devices which are provided to the examinees when they enter the exam centre. The devices can hardly be detected by the untrained eye.
Getting the goods to the candidates
As the examinees are barred from carrying any devices inside the exam centre, the syndicates have developed an alternative.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner (Detective Branch North) said: “They use a device which looks like a MasterCard. It can be hidden inside wallets or in the folds of clothing. It is connected to an earphone via Bluetooth. The device contains a SIM card which automatically receives calls.”
A solver said several people read out the answers over phone. He said the scheme mostly benefits girls who wear hijabs, which slyly conceals their hidden earphones.
The entire process is observed by a backup team and monitored by the ringleaders of the syndicate. After the exam, they burn or shred the leaked scripts and drive off into the sunset.
Contact is made hours after the exam.
Syndicate insiders have confided that the syndicate seizes the admission cards of the candidates after they enter the exam hall so that they can hold out on them for money. After the candidates pay up, their cards are returned. Some of the payment is made in advance with a copy of one of mark sheets for collateral.
The syndicate also has its own set of ethics. If a candidate cannot pass even after being provided the answers, the syndicate returns their money, minus the expenses.
The article was first published in Bangla Tribune