Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Cheating with cameras and mobiles  

There were at least seven of them, women allegedly posing as candidates for a medical exam, and equipped with cameras, phones and Bluetooth devices to transmit the questions to accomplices in nearby hotels. These accomplices were to route the images of the questions to “experts” in Patna and Hyderabad, who would send the answers back to the middlemen, who would then dictate these to 20 real candidates at various centres.

The CBI has so far arrested 16 people, eight of them women including the seven dummy candidates, and unearthed the innovative use of technology to cheat in the post-doctoral MD/MS degree entrance examination conducted by the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) in Chandigarh.
The CBI raided 11 centres on November 10 following a tip-off, and arrested the seven alleged impersonators from four of the centres. Officers said the women were wearing specially tailored clothes fitted with the devices; even their undergarments had wires stitched in. One of the women, C Namitha, who had a hearing device plugged in her ear, had to undergo a surgical procedure at PGIMER to remove the device, which had got stuck in her auditory canal.
The CBI said the plan was to transmit the photographed questions by cellphone to Gurivi Reddy, the alleged mastermind coordinating the exercise from a hotel room. Reddy had been arrested in June 2010, too, when the Andhra Pradesh police found him and two others trying to leak the answers of the Engineering, Agriculture and Medical Common Entrance Test conducted by JN Technological University Hyderabad. He had since got bail.
Reddy reportedly claims to be an MBBS graduate from Hyderabad. “We are checking documents to ascertain this,” said CBI deputy inspector general Mahesh Aggarwal.
None of the seven women arrested from the centres, however, has any background in medicine. “They are graduate students in various Andhra Pradesh colleges,” Aggarwal said. “These seven were probably back-ups for each other so that if one failed to leak the paper, another would do it.”
The seven had apparently produced fake certificates declaring them MBBS graduates at the time they filled up forms for the entrance. They got the admit cards because PGIMER has no mechanism to verify the documents of candidates at that point.
Said Manju Wadwalkar, PGIMER spokesperson, “At the time of applications, we only keep photocopies of the original documents since the number of candidates is very large. We only scrutinise the documents of the successful candidates the exam. At the time of admission, we ask for the originals.”
The precedent
Racketeers had exploited this absence of monitoring before. Two years earlier, it was again the MD entrance examination at PGIMER that saw such a scandal, with dummy candidates successfully leaking the paper with gadgets they carried into the examination hall — smartphones, Bluetooth devices and buttonhole cameras.
Carrying cellphones is banned inside centres for any entrance exam. One theory doing the rounds is that the racketeers may have had contacts with insiders who allowed the dummy candidates to breach that rule.
On September 28, 2010, the CBI’s anti-corruption branch had arrested two junior resident doctors of PGIMER who had secured admission allegedly after bribing touts. When they were detected, Amit Musale and Sujay Sonawane had already taken up their postgraduate courses, having cleared the tests through impersonators. Musale has since been shunted out of pharmacology and Sonawane out of paediatrics.
For the alleged mastermind, Gaurav Shalin, Musale and Sonawane served as success stories in convincing later candidates to take his help in the 2010 entrance. The scam was busted after the CBI tapped Shalin’s phone calls with some of the aspirants.
Apart from PGIMER, the racket had spread to other top medical colleges such as CMC Ludhiana, NIMS Medical College Jaipur and AIIMS Delhi. Seven persons were arrested while Shalin remains absconding.
After that scam broke, PGIMER authorities claimed to have introduced a foolproof system to ensure no one but a genuine applicant could enter a centre. Centres were supposed to introduce metal detectors and CCTV cameras, neither of which were installed at the recent exam, which had over 7,000 applicants for 170 seats.
In the net
Apart from Namitha, the others arrested from the centres this week were Padmaja, G Shahjah, Aruna, Pillai Mirtha, Krishna and Sunita. The eighth woman, Devika, was arrested from a hotel. So were Mahindra Reddy, Afroz Sheikh, P Bharath, Siddhartha, Jagdish and Thamin Khan, apart from Gurivi Reddy. Of the “experts” in Patna and Hyderabad, Ghanshyam Reddy was arrested from Patna, brought to Chandigarh on Monday and was produced before a local court.
The first 15 arrested have been remanded in police custody till November 15. The CBI believes the racket involves more members.
Recoveries include laptops, Bluetooth devices, SIM cards, tablets, medical books, electric solders, fitting equipments, ATM cards and cash.


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