Theatrics in testing times

Ravi Shanker Kapoor |

Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar says the “culprits [of class 10 and 12 leaks] would not go scot free.” Spokespersons of the Bharatiya Janata Party have also been parroting similar clichés: the guilty will be brought to book; investigation is on; we share the pain of the affected students and their parents. Sometimes they also indulge in typical whataboutery—but leaks also happened when the Congress was in power. Needless to say, their homilies and trite remarks are cold comfort to the students, hundreds of whom protested in New Delhi on Thursday against the re-examination of the Central Board of Secondary Education’s class 10 mathematics and Class 12 economics papers.

But our political masters are still relying on theatrics. So Javadekar claimed that he couldn’t sleep at night after hearing about the leak. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he said, has called for strict action against the guilty.

The big question, however, is: why did the crime happen in the first place? There were ample sings, warnings, murmurs, etc., about the leak much before the exams. All these were officially denied; but the worst fears were confirmed. The two exams have been canceled.

There were rumors on March 26 that the economics paper was out. The social media was rife about it several hours before the examination began. The CBSE refused to accept this.

Actually, there were more than rumors. The CBSE’s Controller of Examination, K.K. Choudhury, had talked about the attempts to access the question papers through frivolous messages and emails to examination centres. On March 4, he wrote in a letter that “some elements were writing to examination centres and asking for copies of the question paper for verification.” Yet, there is no evidence to suggest that either the Board or the government did anything to track those elements.

The garrulous Minister didn’t notice anything amiss; perhaps he was blissfully unaware of the premonitions. The high and mighty ministers are not expected to monitor such petty matters as high school exams; the careers of millions of students are involved in them but our politicians are too busy in such pious missions as making India vishwaguru to be bothered about mundane matters like class 10 and 12 exams. Bureaucrats should do such things. What else the bureaucrats for?

But CBSE chief Anita Karwal was promoting her new book, a travelogue, a week before CBSE exams. After the fiasco, she told the media, “We have taken the decision [to cancel exams] in favor of the students and in utmost fairness. Very soon we will announce the dates [for re-test]. Any further decision would also be taken in the favor of the students. Students don’t have to worry about anything. We are with them.”

So, everything she and Board have done is “in favor of the students”! What insolence! And what gumption! Apparently, she is not a Gujarat cadre IAS officer for nothing.

In a nutshell, neither politicians nor officials are bothered; youngsters are paying the price for the ineptitude and callousness. Just like their parents.

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