Paper Leaks: BJP Governments Continue to Give Blacklisted Gujarat Company Contracts

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Paper Leaks: BJP Governments Continue to Give Blacklisted Gujarat Company Contracts

| Updated: June 27, 2024 15:13

Last week, the Uttar Pradesh government blacklisted Ahmedabad-based exam conducting company EduTest Solutions Private Limited in the wake of the paper leak in the UP police constable recruitment exam.

The Wire’s investigation has revealed that this company is has been subject to allegations of paper leaks and recruitment scams in several states across the country. Its founder-director, Sureshchandra Arya, is the president of a prominent Hindu organisation called Sarvadeshik Arya Pratinidhi Sabha. Many prominent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, attend programmes and events organised by the Sabha.

Many state governments have already blacklisted this company. In fact, Sureshchandra’s son, managing director of Edutest Vineet Arya, was even jailed in 2017. However, a Union government institution headed by the prime minister and BJP governments of many states continue to grant contracts to this company for conducting exams.

The Wire Hindi has reported on multiple exam scams in the past. Our team has investigated scams happening in government recruitments in Gujarat and the alleged involvement of BJP leaders. This time, another Gujarati company is involved.

The UP constable recruitment exam

On June 20, the UP government blacklisted Edutest. The company had been given the responsibility of conducting the exam for recruitment to 63,244 constable posts on February 17 and 18. More than 43 lakh candidates appeared for the exam, but the paper was leaked. Candidates from all over the country arrived in the state capital Lucknow and protested for several days.

The Adityanath government was ultimately forced to cancel the exam.

The Special Task Force, which is investigating the case, has sent several notices to Vineet, but he has failed to appear before the investigators.

According to reports, Vineet fled to the US after the formation of the STF. The STF says that the paper leak took place from the company’s warehouse in Ahmedabad. The STF is now investigating the company’s bank accounts and call details. The STF filed a 900-page chargesheet in this case on June 6, and 18 accused persons have been arrested so far.

This is not the first time this Gujarat-based company has run into a controversy. It had been blacklisted earlier also due to paper leaks and severe irregularities. Yet it keeps getting contracts for printing exam papers and conducting exams.

Blacklisted by Bihar last year

On October 20, 2023, the Controller of Examinations of Bihar School Examination Board (Patna) wrote a letter to Edutest Solutions. The Wire Hindi has accessed a copy of the letter in which the company’s project manager was informed that the committee was blacklisting his agency due to its “deeply negligent attitude” and “unprofessional conduct”.

Listing the instances of “negligence” by Edutest, the committee wrote, “Due to negligence in conducting examinations like Secondary Teacher Eligibility Test, D.El.Ed., Joint Entrance Examination, Simultala Residential School Class- 11 Entrance Examination, your agency is banned for three years and blacklisted for three years from work related to Bihar School Examinations.”

The committee spoke in detail about the Edutest’s “negligent and irresponsible acts” during these examinations. For example, it claimed that Edutest had declared the result of 5,657 candidates as ‘passed’ in the Secondary Teacher Eligibility Test even though they had scored less than the minimum marks and ‘uploaded their result on the website’.

Contract from science and technology ministry

A day before the ban, i.e. on October 19, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) under the Ministry of Science and Technology handed a contract of Rs 80,004,000 to Edutest to conduct the recruitment examination for the posts of Section Officer (SO) and Assistant Section Officer (ASO).

The CSIR tender.

On December 8, 2023, i.e. one and a half months after Bihar imposed the ban, CSIR started the application process for recruitment to these posts. The chairman of CSIR is Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself.

Out of the total 444 posts, 76 posts were for SO and the remaining 368 posts were for ASO. The last date for application was January 14, 2024. The examination was held online at different centres of the country between February 5 and 20. During the examination itself, candidates alleged large-scale rigging. On February 8, 2024, the police raided a centre in Uttarakhand. According to the FIR lodged at Rajpur police station in Dehradun, accused Ankit Dhiman, who was caught from the examination centre, had admitted that he had helped the candidate Shiven Dabas (D/o Bhupendra Singh, Roll no.- 126241609, Seat number – 66) solve the question paper in the morning shift on February 7.

Similarly, on February 20, an FIR was lodged at Behror police station in Kotputli-Behror district of Rajasthan, according to which accused Ravi Yadav admitted that he was helping someone cheat in the SO and ASO recruitment examination. Ravi Yadav and another accused, Yogesh Sharma, are currently in jail in this case.

It is noteworthy that CSIR denied any rigging in the exam. When the candidates approached the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), CSIR claimed in its counter affidavit that the ‘involved candidates’ were not allowed further participation in the examination.

CSIR’s counter-affidavit before the CAT.

But the name of the girl Sheven Dabas, whom Ankit Dhiman had mentioned in his statement, was included in the result released by CSIR on June 3. Sheven had cleared the first phase of examination.

Sheven Dabas’s name in the first-round results.

Despite this, CSIR announced the date of the second phase of the examination for this recruitment which will be held on July 7.

Company changed name after its track record was marred

Edutest Solutions Private Limited claims that it has been conducting various types of examinations since 1981. Interestingly, according to Edutest’s website, it has conducted “113 crore examinations” in the last 40 years and all of them have been faultless.

Edutest’s claims.

This company has worked for prestigious government institutions like the Uttar Pradesh Subordinate Services Selection Commission, Gujarat National Law University, Bharat Electronics, Chhattisgarh Government, Haryana SSC, National Institute of Technology (Tiruchirapalli), Power System Operation, Rajasthan Central University, Oil India Limited, University of Pune, Army Welfare Education Society, Central Institute of Psychiatry (Ranchi), Mehsana District Co-operative Bank and Power Grid Corporation of India Limited.

It is noteworthy that Edutest Solutions Private Limited was earlier known as Confisec Private Limited. But it changed its name after its involvement in paper leak cases surfaced.

In 2017, the question paper of the Bihar Staff Selection Commission (BSSC) exam was leaked. The SIT of Bihar Police arrested the then chairman of BSSC and IAS officer Sudhir Kumar along with Vineet Arya, director of the printing firm Confisec Private Limited, which printed the question paper, in February 2017. He was released on bail after some time.

The Edutest office is in this Ahmedabad building. Photo: Special arrangement

Three years later, Vineet filed an application in the court to extend the bail period, in which he described himself as mentally ill and depressed. Vineet also told the court that he was having suicidal thoughts. He is still out on bail.

The BSSC paper leak scandal brought a lot of disrepute to Confisec Private Limited. Many news reports were published about Vineet’s role. But suddenly in a GST document issued on August 23, 2018, the name of the company was changed to Edutest Solutions Private Limited.

Edutest used to be named Confisec Private Limited.

The question paper leak of the Bihar Staff Selection Commission exam in 2017 should have alerted the Bihar government about the dangers of working with this company. But Edutest’s work continued without any hindrance.

Edutest then conducted various examinations for the Bihar School Examination Board, such as the Secondary Teacher Eligibility Test (2022), Secondary Teacher Eligibility Test (2023) and D.El.Ed. Joint Entrance Examination (2023), and also published the results. But there were allegations of irregularities in these as well.

The committee wrote to Edutest, “The publication of erroneous results is indicative of your gross negligence and professional inefficiency.” The committee also wrote that when it sought clarification from Edutest, they did not get a “satisfactory” answer. According to the committee, at many centres Edutest started the examination later than the scheduled time. Sometimes there was negligence in issuing the admit cards, or an applicant was not informed about the scheduled date. The results were also not declared on time in some cases. Due to this “negligent and unprofessional conduct”, the committee blacklisted Edutest for three years in October 2023.

Edutest argued in the Patna high court that its contract was not with the Bihar School Examination Board but with the Bihar State Electronic Development Corporation Limited (Beltron), so the committee does not have the right to blacklist it.

On May 16, 2024, a bench of Chief Justice Harish Kumar quashed the order of the committee on technical grounds while stating that the court did not consider the allegations against the company. The court clearly said that Beltron has already given a show cause notice to the petitioner (Edutest).

The Wire spoke to advocate Satyabir Bharti, who appeared in the court on behalf of the Bihar School Examination Board and Beltron. “The matter is not closed yet. Now, further action will be taken by Bihar State Electronic Development Corporation Limited,” Bharti said.

The Wire contacted Edutest’s lawyer Saket Tiwari, but he refused to answer any questions.

Edutest involved in multiple controversies

Earlier, Lucknow’s Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Institute of Medical Sciences (RMLIMS) had given the responsibility of conducting the exam for the recruitment of nurses to Edutest last year. But due to allegations of rigging in the exam, a re-examination was announced at 18 centres.

A committee from RMLIMS had also asked Edutest to reimburse the travel expenses of the affected candidates.

This year, the Central Staff Selection Commission (SSC) needed a service provider for the computer-based test for which four companies filed the tender, including Edutest. But SSC disqualified Edutest because the agency could not produce a certificate of not being blacklisted.

Tender documents issued by the SSC.

Now, the question is, why has this company remained the favourite of the governments even after such massive irregularities? The answer lies in the religious and political inclinations of its owners.

Edutest’s founder director Sureshchandra Arya is the president of Sarvadeshik Arya Pratinidhi Sabha, a post he has been holding since February 2016. This institute claims to promote the teachings of Arya Samaj started by Dayanand Saraswati. According to the institute’s website, “Sarvadeshik Arya Pratinidhi Sabha was founded by Swami Shraddhanand Ji Maharaj for proper administration of Arya Samaj organisation in all over the world.”

The Arya Samaj temple located in New Delhi. The Sarvadesi Arya Pratinidhi Sabha also has its office in this complex. Photo: Ankit Raj

In 2018, many senior leaders of BJP and the Sangh participated in the four-day International Arya Maha Sammelan organised by the Sabha. Then President Ram Nath Kovind was at the inaugural ceremony of the Maha Sammelan and Sureshchandra Arya gave the welcome address.

Many Union ministers, MPs and BJP leaders including Rajnath Singh, Nitin Gadkari, Adityanath, Manohar Lal Khattar, Sudhanshu Trivedi, Manoj Tiwari, Vijay Goyal and Meenakshi Lekhi attended this four-day programme. Apart from this, many influential people including Ramdev and a large number of saints also appeared at the event.

In the photographs of the event, Sureshchandra Arya can be seen honouring all the guests.

BJP leader Rajnath Singh, who attended the International Arya Maha Sammelan with Sureshchandra Arya and others. Photo: Arya Samaj website
Nitin Gadkari, who attended the International Arya Maha Sammelan with Sureshchandra Arya and others. Photo: Arya Samaj website
BJP leaders Adityanath and Manohar Lal Khattar who attended the International Arya Maha Sammelan with Sureshchandra Arya and others. Photo: Arya Samaj website

In February 2023, Modi inaugurated the 200th birth anniversary celebrations of Dayanand Saraswati in New Delhi. Sureshchandra Arya was present on the stage with Modi during this Arya Samaj event. Modi also mentioned Sureshchandra in his speech.

In addition, Gujarat Governor Acharya Devvrat, and Union ministers like Kishan Reddy, Meenakshi Lekhi and Arjun Ram Meghwal ,were also present. A detailed report of this event with many pictures and videos is available on Modi’s official website.

Sureshchandra Arya is on Modi’s right. Photo: Narendra Modi’s website

According to a lengthy profile available on the Edutest website, Sureshchandra is the “backbone” of the company. Sureshchandra inaugurated a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme of the company held in Sanand, Gujarat. Vineet, his wife and Edutest director Jaya Arya and Anar Patel, daughter of former Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel, were also present in this programme.

From left: Vinit Arya, Jaya Arya, Anar Patel and Sureshchandra Arya at an Edutest CSR event. Photo: Maya Patankar on LinkedIn

The Wire has asked Edutest several detailed questions on email regarding this entire episode. No answer had been received till the time of publication. The report will be updated as and when a response is received.

Translated from the Hindi original by Naushin Rehman.

Note: This article was published on The Wire

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