Exam scam embarrassment: Mumbai University beefs up security

It was after the recent exam racket blew up in its face that the university was instructed to change the security agency guarding the campus and review other loopholes

A day after mid-day revealed that corrupt Mumbai University officials were brazenly sneaking students’ answer sheets in and out of the campus without ever being checked by the guards, the varsity has now been asked to change the security agency guarding its Kalina campus. State minister for higher and technical education Ravinda Waikar issued instructions to review security at the university after a major exam scam was uncovered there on Saturday by the Bhandup police.

Officials were easily sneaking answer sheets in and out of the Exam Bhavan at the University’s Kalina campus
Officials were easily sneaking answer sheets in and out of the Exam Bhavan at the University’s Kalina campus

mid-day reported that the racketeers — the exam custodian Prabhakar Vaze as well as a few junior clerks and peons — were exploiting basic loopholes in the university’s evaluation system. For instance, not only were the roll numbers still attached to the answer sheets, but the fraudsters had a two-day window to take the papers out of campus and give them to the students, who got the entire night to fill out correct answers (‘Two-day scanning window helped MU scamsters switch answer papers’, May 24).

The university is now in damage control mode and is looking at different ways it can tighten security at its Kalina campus, where all answer sheets are held within the Exam Bhavan. However, senior officials are of the opinion that it’s not just security lapses, but also administrative failure that is to be blamed for the scam.

Members of the MU senate and other senior officials pointed out that even as several positions remain vacant, the university continues to rely on temporary staff hired at poor wages. Frustrated, the staffers are tempted to turn to fraud instead.

Even in important posts like the controller of examinations — who helms the exam department — the university has not bothered to make permanent appointments.

“The Controller of Examination heads the most sensitive section of the varsity, but no one has been appointed permanently for the task. Instead, an official has been made the temporary in-charge since a few months,” said a senior official.

The official added that the university was putting off all appointments because it is waiting for the state government to introduce a new University Act. MU is anticipating several changes to be introduced by the new Act. In the meanwhile, several bodies remain defunct. “The casual attitude of the administration has caused much damage to varsity’s image,” he added.

Senior senate member, Santosh Gangurde, said, “It has been time and again brought to notice of the administration that the examination section has many problems. But the administration does not seem to be serious about resolving the issues. Even the post of the Pro-Vice Chancellor — also responsible for the exam section — remains vacant.”

No actin taken
“In the recent past, several similar rackets have been busted but no serious action has been taken against those whose names surfaced. Instead, the university reinstated a few staff members whose names were involved in the 2014 paper-leak scam. Even the inquiry committees formed to probe the scams are comprised officials who don’t have transparent track records themselves. Then why would employees fear the administration?” said Subhash Athavale, senior faculty member and president of the Mumbai University College Teachers Association.

Delay in results?
In the aftermath of the exam scam, the university decided to transfer 138 of its employees – decision that may end up delaying the release of results, fear student union leaders. Usually, the MU result season begins in May and goes on for a few months. A senate member said, “This change in staff has come suddenly, at a time when examinations are on in full swing and evaluation work needs to go on simultaneously. The administration was sleeping until now, but these sudden changes will affect the efficiency of the examination section.”

150
The number of posts that remain vacant at Mumbai University

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