India blocks internet for 25 million to prevent cheating in mass exam

India blocks internet for 25 million in an effort to prevent cheating by trainee teachers in mass exam

  • Indian authorities shut off mobile internet for 25 million for a mass exam Sunday
  • Passing the exam allows trainee teachers to get jobs in government-run schools
  • Around 1.6 million students were set to take the exam in Rajasthan, north India

India blocked the internet for 25 million people on Sunday in an effort to prevent cheating by trainee teachers in a mass exam. 

Authorities shut off access to the web on mobiles but kept broadband open in ten regions in Rajasthan as students took the Teacher Eligibility Test (REET). 

The exam is for a coveted qualification which allows trainee teachers to get jobs in primary or secondary government-run schools – positions that come with generous benefits. 

Around 1.6 million students were preparing to take the exam on Sunday, the first time the test has been held in Rajasthan since 2018, sparking concerns over potential cheating which has been rampant in the past.  

Cheating is rife in India’s highly competitive government, university and even school examinations and authorities have struggled with ever-more sophisticated methods to help people pass.

These include professionals who earn a living impersonating others and taking exams in their place, to gangs stealing or illegally procuring exam papers and then selling them. 

India blocked the internet for 25 million people on Sunday in an effort to prevent cheating by trainee teachers in a mass exam (pictured, candidates wait to take the exam in Jaipur)

As part of further efforts to prevent cheating, authorities installed CCTV cameras at thousands of test sites set up across the state and candidates were asked to swap the face mask they arrived in for one provided by the centre.    

A document tweeted by Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot also revealed officials videoed the production of the exam papers – including the printing, transporting, and distribution of the tests. 

Workers involved in the process were told they would immediately be fired if they were found to have a hand in leaking the test paper.  

But despite the stringent measures, at least ten people were arrested for attempting to cheat using Bluetooth devices concealed in their flip-flops.    

The group hid devices in the soles of their flip-flops that could receive ordinary calls which would be transmitted wirelessly to tiny receivers hidden in their ears.

As part of further efforts to prevent cheating, authorities installed CCTV cameras at thousands of test sites set up across the state and candidates were asked to swap the face mask they arrived in for one provided by the centre (pictured)

The plan was for accomplices outside to call the hidden contraptions and dictate the correct answers to the exams, said Priti Chandra, a police official in the western city of Bikaner.

But the group of would-be teachers were arrested acting suspiciously outside the examination hall on the evening before the exams and the devices in their footwear were discovered.

‘We were aware of the possibility of cheating but we thought it would be a question paper leak or someone would use the internet, which is why it was restricted in many cities,’ Chandra told AFP.

‘But this was a totally new modus operandi. (They) are getting so tech savvy.’

Investigations revealed that at least 25 students had bought these flip-flops from a gang for 600,000 rupees ($8,100) per pair.

The information was shared with several other districts in time for the exams and many centres asked the students to remove their footwear outside the examination hall.

‘In one case we caught a student after the exam and had to take him to a doctor to identify and remove the Bluetooth device from his ear,’ Chandra said. 

It the latest in a string of well-known efforts to cheat in public exams across the country. 

In March 2015, dozens of people scaled the walls of a school test centre in Bihar state to pass notes to relatives sitting the exam

In March 2015, dozens of people scaled the walls of a school test centre in Bihar state to pass notes to relatives sitting the exam.  

Images circulated online at the time showing people clinging to the windows of the four-storey building where thousands of teenagers were sitting their exams. 

The students sitting the school tests face tremendous pressure because they must pass the exams to continue their education. 

But measures to prevent cheating in public exams have become more stringent in recent years after several dubious efforts made headlines. 

In October 2019 a school in Haveri, Karnataka state, came under fire for forcing students to wear cardboard boxes over their heads to prevent them cheating. 

Shocking images circulated on social media show the students at Bhagat Pre-University College sitting in rows with the boxes over their heads, cut open at one side.

The college was criticized for the unorthodox measure to prevent students from copying their neighbour’s work.

In October 2019 a school in Haveri, Karnataka state, came under fire for forcing students to wear cardboard boxes over their heads to prevent them cheating 

 Shocking images circulated on social media show the students at Bhagat Pre-University College sitting in rows with the boxes over their heads, cut open at one side

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