The fear of losing an entire year made students who had double ATKTs willing participants in the scam
Appointed as the custodian of answer sheets, Prabhakar Vaze was trusted with the task of keeping students’ papers safe. Instead, he misused his position and became the kingpin of the exam scam at Mumbai University, often sneaking answer sheets out of the campus, to his own home.
Vaze held a position of trust, but he and his accomplices would target students with ‘golden ATKT’ or a double ATKT, and would persuade them to cheat so they didn’t end up losing the whole year.
mid-day’s front-page report yesterday laid out exactly how the scam operated — while the peons were responsible for pulling out the answer sheets from the hundreds of bundles at the Exam Bhavan in the Kalina campus, Vaze was the only one who could carry the papers out without drawing the suspicion of the security guards.
The police had even found three tampered answer sheets in his bag after his arrest. On Monday, cops found two more tampered papers in his house in Palghar. The 50-year-old had put in over 20 years of service at the university.
After the students filled out their answer sheets, Vaze would then put the papers back into the bunches. But he wasn’t successful all the time. “Sometimes other staffers would be present and Vaze could not succeed in returning the tampered answer sheets to the bunches in the third-floor store room. In such cases, he would take the answer sheets home. This was revealed during investigation, and two more answer sheets were seized from his house in Palghar on Monday,” said one of the cops investigating the racket.
Since, his bag was never checked by the security guards, Vaze would confidently take the papers home and wait for another chance to put them back in the bunch. The two sheets found at his house had recently been altered, said cops.
Apart from Vaze, seven other junior employees — clerks and peons — were arrested for the scam on Saturday. All those arrested will be produced in the court on Wednesday, when the police will seek to extend their custody. Apart from them, the cops have also identified two more clerical employees who were involved in the racket. Both are temporary employees at the university and have been absconding since the racket was busted, informed Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone VII) Vinaykumar Rathod.
Investigators have also identified five agents who were running the racket, including a former student and three former peons at the university, as well as one driver who was a regular visitor to the MU campus and got to know about the scam. These five have been named in the FIR but are yet to be arrested. Investigators are also in the process of identifying engineering students who cheated with the help of the scamsters.
“Lawful action will be taken against the accused students who were involved in the racket,” said DCP Rathod.
The police have also seized photocopies of four students’ hall tickets. Investigators believe these photocopies are an important piece of evidence to establish the link between students, agents and the crooked MU staff. The students would give these agents their roll number – either by sending them a photocopy of the hall ticket or by sending a picture on WhatsApp. To avoid leaving a trail of evidence, the agents would write the roll numbers on a separate chit and hand it to Vaze. After the work was done, Vaze would then destroy the incriminating chits.
ATKT: Easy target
As mid-day reported yesterday, the scam had started last year, but the accused found very few takers among students. This year, however, they managed to find hundreds of willing students just by looking at the ATKT (allowed to keep term) list. In particular, they searched for students who had a ‘golden ATKT’, which means they had got two ATKTs in one year, and would not be promoted. These were truly desperate students who were willing to cheat in order to prevent losing a year.
The total number of answer sheets seized in the investigation