Gujarat’s Recruitment Scam Model: 11 Papers Leaked, 201 Accused, But No Action Taken

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Gujarat’s Recruitment Scam Model: 11 Papers Leaked, 201 Accused, But No Action Taken

| Updated: May 25, 2024 13:47

According to the Gujarat Congress, recruitment scams are not possible without government patronage. Asit Vora, a prominent Bharatiya Janata Party leader and a close aide of Narendra Modi, had to resign from the post of the Gujarat Secondary Service selection board chairman after one such notorious scam. The printing press which was in the news over the paper leak issue had once printed a book by Modi.

One of Modi’s guarantees in the BJP’s manifesto, titled ‘Modi ki Guarantee’, says, “We have already enacted a strict law to stop misconduct in recruitment exams across the country. We will strictly implement this law to ensure strict punishment to those playing with the future of our youth.”

In February this year, the Union government passed the Public Examination (Prevention of Unfair Means) Bill, 2024.

This law mirrors the fraud happening with the youth across the country. Paper leaks not only result in the cancellation of exams, but with them the hopes and aspirations of countless candidates are also dashed. A recent report by the Indian Express said that in the last five years, 41 recruitment exams in 15 states have been cancelled due to paper leaks, resulting in a huge blow to 1.4 crore applicants.

These incidents have become a part of public memory, especially in the Hindi-speaking states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. However, the situation is just as worse in BJP’s ‘model’ state Gujarat. The first episode in this series presented by The Wire, which focuses on the scams taking place in government recruitment, is from Gujarat.

In February 2023, the BJP-led state government in Gujarat had passed a Bill to prevent paper leaks in government recruitment exams. The law provides for a maximum imprisonment of 10 years and a minimum fine of Rs 1 crore for the ‘organised crime’ of paper leak. While presenting the Bill in the House, Minister of State for Home Harsh Sanghvi admitted that there had been 11 cases of paper leaks in the state over the past 11 years. Consequently, 11 cases were registered against 201 accused individuals, and chargesheets were filed in 10 of these cases.

However, Sanghvi failed to mention that the roots of paper leak in Gujarat run deep and have a connection with the BJP rule. It involves two major players – Gujarat Subordinate Services Selection Board (GSSSB), the body that conducts examinations for all government recruitment, and Surya Offset Printing Press of Ahmedabad from where many papers have allegedly been leaked.

The Head Clerk Exam Paper Leak case of 2021 is the most infamous recruitment scam of Gujarat in the last decade. It shook the government and forced the then GSSSB president and BJP leader Asit Vora to resign following statewide protests.

What was the matter?

In 2021, the GSSSB had announced recruitment for 186 seats of Head Clerk. The examination was conducted on December 12, 2021, at around 700 centres in the state, in which 88,000 candidates participated. When the news broke that the question papers had already been leaked prior to the exam for Rs 10 lakh to Rs 15 lakh, the exam was cancelled.

According to the police, this paper was leaked from Surya Offset Printing Press of Ahmedabad, with which the GSSSB had tied up for question paper printing.

In this case, the Gujarat Police had arrested more than 30 people and filed a 14,000-page chargesheet on March 9, 2022. The police had charged the printing press supervisor, Kishore Acharya, as the main accused, who according to the police was the mastermind of the paper leak. Printing press owner Mudresh Purohit was also questioned in this case, but he got anticipatory bail in December 2021.

During the state-wide movement against the scandal, candidates were seen asking how the exam papers could come out of Surya Printing Press’s fort-like building.

The matter is still in court.

Surya Press involved in previous paper leaks

Surya Press’s name has been linked to paper leak cases earlier as well. There were also reports of Gujarat University blacklisting Surya Press.

Speaking to the Times of India, the former vice-chancellor of the university had said, “The printing press has been blacklisted by Gujarat University since the paper leak scam came to light in 2004-05. The investigating team had at that time pointed towards the role of the printing press in the alleged leak. One of the promoters of the printing press was also jailed for his alleged involvement in the examination paper scam.”

Apart from Gujarat University, Surya Offset’s name was also linked to the paper leak case of December 2021 in Saurashtra University. Sources in the education department said that this press used to print exam papers for five universities.

The Gujarat Congress has alleged that Mudresh Purohit has links with the RSS and the BJP.

It is noteworthy that the book Sangharsh Ma Gujarat written in Gujarati on the Emergency by Narendra Modi in 1978 was published by Image Publications and printed by Surya Offset. The PDF version of the book available on Modi’s website shows that the first edition of the book was published in January 1978, the next in March the same year, the third in September 2000, and the fourth in March 2008.

When The Wire contacted the printing press owner, Mudresh Purohit, regarding the head clerk paper leak case, he said, “Our company is not involved in it. It is true that Kishore Acharya, a senior person of our company, was caught by the police. His name is in the chargesheet. He is still in jail. He had worked in our company for 30 years.”

Regarding his interrogation by the police, Purohit said, “I told whatever the police asked during the initial investigation. They wanted a list of employees which I gave them. They identified Kishore Acharya from the list.”

When asked why he petitioned for anticipatory bail, the owner of Surya Offset said, “I feared that the police might take me into custody as well, so I had filed a petition in the high court for anticipatory bail. In the high court hearing, when the police were asked about the role of the company owner in the matter, they did not state any role of mine. After this, the court ended the anticipatory bail case and said that there was no need for it. The police can interrogate whenever needed.”

Purohit further said, “We have been printing the papers of recruitment examinations since 2006. They (selection board people) call for tenders for the job and decide.”

Purohit claimed that he was not associated with any political party and had no connection with the RSS.

He also denied that GU has ever blacklisted Surya Offset. ‘‘They never blacklisted us. We had a separate dispute with them. That controversy was not related to the paper leak. They felt that we were charging more than the rate mentioned in the contract for printing the paper and were robbing them and misusing the contract. The matter went to court and a tribunal headed by three retired judges ruled in our favour. The university did not accept the decision. The case is still going on in the high court.”

It is noteworthy that many media reports in Gujarat highlighted the blacklisting of Surya Press while Purohit admitted that Gujarat University and Surya did not work together after the academic year 2004-05. “We worked with Gujarat University for 25 years. But after this case, we stopped working with them because it did not feel right to work with someone who levels false allegations against you,” said Purohit.

Purohit accepted that there was a paper leak at Saurashtra University but added that it was not the fault of his press. He alleged that the paper was leaked from the university and other people were arrested in the case.

On the printing of Narendra Modi’s book, he said, “I was approached by Image Publications as I have personal relations with its owners. I have no direct acquaintance with Narendra Modi.”

Many people in Gujarat question the explanation offered by Surya Press. Yuvraj Singh Jadeja, who was the face of the movement against paper leaks, told The Wire, “There is no stopping the trend of paper leaks because strict action was not taken against the people involved in the previous incidents and the selection board kept hiring the same printing press for printing the question papers which was blacklisted years ago in a paper leak case.”

The Service Selection Board and the BJP

A prominent name that comes up when the GSSSB is mentioned is its former chairman Asit Vora. During his tenure of four years (2019-2022), papers of two major recruitment examinations were leaked. More than 15 lakh youth had applied for the exams while 12 lakh candidates had appeared in them. During Vora’s tenure, 61 more allegations were levelled which included allegations of tampering with examination results. Yet he was given a second term which ended with his resignation in February 2022 over the Head Clerk paper leak case.

Who is Asit Vora? When Vora was elected mayor of Ahmedabad in October 2010, Gujarat’s famous news website Desh Gujarat wrote, ‘Narendra Modi’s man Asit Vora elected the new Mayor of Ahmedabad.’

Before being elected the mayor, Vora was the chairman of the standing committee of AMC (Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation). Earlier, he had been a five-time BJP councillor from Maninagar. Modi contested his first election from Maninagar Assembly constituency after the Gujarat riots and represented the constituency till 2012.

As chief minister, Modi had entrusted the task of developing Maninagar’s Kankaria Lake to the then mayor Asit Vora. This lake was one of the early works of Modi’s ‘Gujarat Model’. The picture of Kankaria Lake is still posted on Vora’s Facebook profile. When Modi thanked the people of Maninagar after being elected MLA for the last time in 2012, Asit Vora was present on the stage. Modi addressed him as ‘Asit Bhai’ and thanked him too.

Unaccounted paper leaks 

Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi has claimed that question papers of 14 examinations related to government jobs have been leaked in the last decade:

2013: GPSC Chief Officer Recruitment Exam

2015: Talati Recruitment Exam

2016: Talati Recruitment Examination conducted by District Panchayat in Gandhinagar, Modasa, Surendranagar District.

2018: TAT-Teacher Exam

2018: Main Sevak Exam

2018: Nayab Chitnis Exam

2018: LRD-Lok Rakshak Dal

2019: Non-Secretariat Clerk

2020: Government Recruitment Examinations (Corona period)

2021: Head Clerk

2021: DGVCL Vidyut Sahayak

2021: Sub Auditor

2022: Forest Guard

2023: Junior Clerk

The Wire investigated some of the major recruitment scams in Gujarat.

GPSC chief officer recruitment exam

The Gujarat Public Service Commission (GPSC) had posted an advertisement (Advt. No. 25/2013-14) in August 2013 for 30 posts of Class III Chief Officer (Municipal Corporation). According to the advertisement, two examinations would be conducted and candidates who cleared both the examinations would be called for an interview.

More than 80,000 applications were received for 30 seats. But the question paper of the examination was allegedly leaked. It was discovered by a candidate after the examination. According to the Times of India, the police had arrested two people in this case – Bhuval Chaudhary and Dilip Chaudhary.

“Dilip is associated with a political party and is also a recovery agent of a finance company in the area,” the investigators revealed. “He has confessed that he bought the paper for Rs 70,000. He sold the copies to several persons including Bhuwal for Rs 40,000.”

Talati (Patwari) Recruitment Exam

Gujarat Panchayat Service Selection Board (GPSSB) had conducted the written examination for the selection of Grade-III employees in seven districts – Jakot, Bhavnagar, Jamnagar, Porbandar, Amreli, Gandhinagar and Sabarkantha – on June 6, 2015. It was alleged that the question paper was leaked in Sabarkantha before the examination.

According to a report carried by Indian Express, a few days after the written examination, Rajkot district panchayat received an anonymous letter alleging that the paper had been leaked in Rajkot too. Rajkot district panchayat officials sent a letter to the city police commissioner on July 23 requesting appropriate action.

After the police report was filed, the state government cancelled the examination on August 4, 2015. After this, the examination was conducted again in Amreli and Bhavnagar on August 16 and in other remaining districts on August 23.

TAT-Teacher Exam

The State Examination Board had conducted the Teaching Aptitude Test (TAT) on July 29, 2018. About 1.47 lakh candidates had appeared for the examination. But due to the paper being leaked on social media, the state government had to cancel the examination. It is mandatory to pass TAT for the job of primary school teacher.

The board conducted the examination again in January 2019 but there were allegations of paper leak again. The police registered a case against Manish Buch, the invigilator posted at the examination centre of Satya Sai School located on Cypress Section Road in Jamnagar. According to a news report, Buch was the headmaster of a private school.

Junior Clerk Exam

On January 29, 2023, GPSSB had conducted the examination for the recruitment of 1,181 junior clerks. But due to paper leak, the exam had to be cancelled. A total of 9.5 lakh candidates had applied for the examination which was to be held at 2,995 centres across the state.

As per the assurance, the government had re-conducted the cancelled entrance examination within 100 days. The results of the exam were announced in August 2023.

Speaking to The Wire, Dilip Singh Rajput, who had appeared for the Junior Clerk exam, said, “The government has a schedule for everything but there is no schedule for taking the exam and issuing the letter of joining. The government posts advertisements arbitrarily in two, three, four or five years. Then, it does not make clear whether the exam will be held in two months or four months. After all this, there always remains the possibility of the paper getting leaked.”

As an instance, Dilip Singh cites the recruitment of teachers in Gujarat when the government took the examination in 2023 five years after the advertisement for vacancy. “The results of the exam have been announced. Those who have cleared the test have been sitting for a year but no joining has taken place,” he said.

Another candidate Praveen Singh Jadeja told The Wire that despite having a new law in place and conducting examinations online, rigging has not stopped.

“Ever since the law was passed, two papers have already been leaked,” he said. “The new law neither worked in the NEET paper nor the examinations held in Rajkot.”

Praveen, a resident of Chhota Udaipur, has given up preparing for competitive exams. “I have to shell out around Rs 15,000 per month to commute to Gandhinagar from our village for the exam preparation. We work hard and travel 200 kilometres to sit for the exam. Then we get to know that the paper has been leaked. What is the use of preparing for an exam in such a situation?”

Paper leaks and student suicides

It is noteworthy that the cases of suicide among students in Gujarat have increased by 21% in three years (2020-21 to 2022-23). A total of 495 students from schools and universities took their lives between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2023. Of these, 50%, i.e. 246, were girls.

Jyoti (21) from Bhavnagar had attempted suicide due to the leak of Junior Clerk paper in February 2023. According to the news published on the Gujarati news website Sandesh, Jyoti was preparing for the exam for a government job for two years. But due to the cancellation of the paper, she became mentally stressed and consumed a poisonous substance.

In April 2024, Manjita (21) from Surat district died by suicide over not getting a government job despite all efforts.

In February 2024, Manish (30) from Surendra Nagar took his own life due to repeated failure in competitive examinations. Manish had been working hard for a government job for five years.

In April 2023, Ajay from Wakaner died by suicide because he could not clear the junior clerk exam and was afraid that he would not get a government job.

‘Rigging is going on under the protection of the government’

Gujarat Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi said that the state government’s law on paper leaks is just eyewash to fool the public.

Speaking to The Wire, Doshi said, “When the cases of paper leaks increased and the State Law Commission took cognizance, the government introduced a law. Under it, the government has only caught the small fish in paper leak cases while the main culprits go scot-free. In fact, they have even been given state protection.”

Doshi alleged, “Paper leak has become an organised crime in Gujarat. As soon as the advertisement (for jobs) is issued, the price is fixed. The price of TAT is Rs 7 lakh to Rs 10 lakh. The price of Talati is Rs 15 lakh.”

The Wire spoke to GSSSB Secretary Hasmukh Patel on the paper leak issue and he said, “I don’t know about the last 10 years. But the cases of the last four to five years are still pending in court. Some accused have also taken bail.”

When asked why the selection board gave the Head Clerk recruitment exam paper to a blacklisted press for printing, he said, “They had no role in that leak. The paper did not leak from the press. It may have leaked during transportation. Surya Offset was never in the blacklist…An employee (of Surya Offset) was arrested. But he was released on bail.”

BJP denies allegations

Speaking to The Wire, Gujarat BJP’s chief spokesperson Yamal Vyas denied any connection between BJP and RSS members and the paper leak cases. When asked what connection the BJP has with Mudresh Purohit, the owner of Surya Offset Printing Press, he said, “I do not know any such person.”

He also claimed that the new law will stop cases of paper leaks. “All the examinations in Gujarat are being covered through CCTV,” he said. “We are trying our best. Legal action is being taken. Whoever is involved in these matters will not be spared.”

Translated from Hindi by Naushin Rehman.

This article was first published on The Wire on May 25, 2024.

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