Internet is shutting down for millions in Indian state’s attempt to stop exam cheaters



By Jessie Yeung, Swati Gupta and Meenketan Jha, CNN Business

More than 25 million people in the Indian state of Rajasthan faced government-imposed internet shutdowns and restrictions on Sunday in a bid to prevent cheating in a mass exam.

Hundreds of thousands of applicants have taken the Rajasthan Teacher Eligibility Test (REET), an exam that paves the way for employment as a primary or secondary teacher in public schools.

It’s a coveted position that comes with generous benefits – and the exam hasn’t taken place in Rajasthan since 2018, which could be one of the reasons there were so many applicants on Sunday.

Thousands of testing centers have been set up across the state, with people traveling from their hometowns on free government-run buses. But, wary of possible written exam cheating – which has been rampant in the past – authorities have ordered districts to issue internet restrictions to prevent information leaking.

At least 10 districts have shut down their mobile internet, although several have maintained high-speed internet to minimize disruption to business and daily life.

In Jaipur district, the most populous in the state with more than 6.6 million people, the internet was cut from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., according to Dinesh Kumar Yadav, the divisional commissioner of Jaipur.

“There were so many applicants… we just wanted to make sure [there wasn’t cheating]”Yadav said.” People tried to cheat but we caught a lot. But because of the Internet shutdown, the [test] the paper was not disclosed.

He added that candidates sometimes use “different types” of instruments to try to cheat, and that other students “would get angry if they didn’t have a fair chance.”

Several other important districts, including Alwar, Nagaur, Sikar and Ajmer, have also imposed temporary internet shutdowns, totaling more than 25.2 million people affected, according to the most recent census population estimates. of 2011. According to the same survey, Rajasthan is home to more than 68 million people.

Other anti-cheating measures included CCTV cameras at all testing centers, according to a document tweeted by Chief Minister of Rajasthan Ashok Gehlot. Candidates were not allowed to bring their own face masks from the outside; after their arrival, they had to throw away the masks they had brought and then use the masks provided at the testing center.

The entire exam process – from printing the exam papers to transporting them and then distributing them to the exam center students – was closely monitored and videotaped, the document says. Any exam worker or supervisor involved in the leak of the test documents would be immediately terminated and could be subject to legal action.

This is not the first time that Rajasthan has shut down the Internet to combat cheating; the same happened in 2018 during a police officer exam, with the shutdown crippling the banking and logistics industries, according to CNN-News18, a subsidiary of CNN.

The measures may seem extreme, but a number of widespread fraud scandals in recent years have brought the problem to the fore, with some gaining international attention. In a well known example in 2015, family members from Bihar state climbed outside school buildings to hand out memory aids to their children inside, who were taking the grade 10 end-of-year exams.

The desperation reflects the focus on education in the country, where for many, a good education could be the key to getting out of poverty.

In response, schools and authorities have experimented with different anti-cheating strategies, although some have turned against them by sparking public outrage – as was the case in 2019 when school in the state of Karnataka asked students to wear cardboard boxes on their heads during exams.

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