Exam rigging is rife in Nepal’s human resource management. Here’s a typical case

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Can an examinee who is competing for a job think of helping another candidate pass the exam at the cost of his/her own failure?

Generally, no one would do it.

However, an examinee from Rajapur, Bardiya has made his competitor pass the examination for the position of a government teacher by writing the roll number of the competitor in his answer sheet at the Surkhet examination centre.

As a complaint was lodged against them, and the investigators found the examinee and the other examinee sitting next to him were actually spouses. After this incident, both the wife’s job secured by the husband writing the examination and the husband’s already existing job as a secondary-level teacher are at risk. Investigators say this is a unique example of exam rigging in the country’s human resource management.  

Planning for the exam rigging

The Teachers Service Commission had published a vacancy announcement for teachers from primary to secondary levels for 2017/18. Mana Kala Acharya (Chaulagain) of Bardiya was preparing for the job as a primary teacher whereas her husband Mani Lal Acharya was preparing for the secondary level.

But, Mani Lal also decided to take the examination for the primary level teacher again and filled the application form accordingly. As the initials of their name matched and also they had filled the forms at the same time, their roll numbers came closer to each other.

On September 29, 2018, the examination was held. Mana Kala with roll number 68100037 and Mani Lal with roll number 68100038 got to sit next to each other in the examination hall at Adarsh ​​Raj Memorial School, Surkhet. Both of them took the exam. 

As the result came out, Mani Lal could not pass the examination. However, his wife Mana Kala passed it and was appointed a teacher under the women’s reservation at Bheri Secondary School in Dhobinpur, Rajapur.

Mani Lal later took the secondary level teacher’s examination and passed it. After that, he was appointed at Mahadev High School in Bajhang and later transferred to Amar Shaheed Dasharath Chand High School in Rajapur. 

On September 1, 2019, a complaint was lodged at the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), accusing the couple of exam rigging. In the complaint filed in the name of an ‘examinee’, it was mentioned that Mana Kala had passed the examination by exchanging answer sheets with her husband, hence committing exam rigging, and this matter should be investigated and the responsible person should be punished accordingly.

File: Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA)
File: Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA)

Then, the CIAA launched an investigation. As the investigation progressed, it was revealed that they had been involved in exam rigging as claimed in the complaint. “Mana Kala was not confident that she would pass the exam. Therefore, they exchanged their answer sheets thinking she would get the job under women’s reservation if the husband wrote the answer,” said an official, “Both of them have admitted the allegations.”

Before going to the examination hall, Mani Lal and Mana Kala had planned everything. Upon entering the hall, he first wrote the objective question answers. While the examination was going on, the guards started verifying their entrance cards and doing attendance.

By that time, they had already written the answers to the questions in the first section and submitted the answer sheets. They had also already written their roll numbers on the attendance sheets and signed them.

Then, Mani Lal started writing answers in the second and third answer sheets. This time, he wrote his wife’s roll number in the answer sheet and Mana Kala wrote her husband’s roll number. The invigilators who had already left did not find any hint of their plan and did not suspect them either. 

Then, they handed over the answer sheets and left the examination hall. Mana Kala passed the examination written by her husband. She got appointed as a primary teacher on November 21, 2019, and started teaching.

An official source said that Mana Kala had admitted exam rigging in her statement to the investigators.

Three days after taking that examination, Mani Lal took another exam for the secondary level from the Mahendranagar centre and passed it. He started teaching at Mahadev High School in Bajhang on August 1, 2019.

After some time, he was transferred to Rajapur, Bardiya.

The couple were happy as their plan had worked out. However, their happiness did not last long. Authorities began investigating the complaint even before the results of Mana Kala were made public and had already received initial hints to prove exam rigging.

Justifying the exam rigging

According to the charge sheet filed at the Special Court by the CIAA, Mani Lal had given a statement earlier that his wife was devastated after she failed in the interview of the Teachers Service Commission examination held in 2013.

Mani Lal had planned everything for the exam rigging thinking his wife would pass the examination and get the job if he wrote it and then it would be easier for the family.

“I did so thinking that at least one among us should have a permanent job. There was very little possibility of me passing the secondary level examination,” he said, “I exchanged the answer sheets thinking that at least my wife would pass the examination and get the appointment under the women’s reservation. If only I had known that I would pass the examination, I probably wouldn’t have made such a mistake”

He had argued that he should not be accused of corruption as he did not take the exam in his wife’s name but only exchanged answer sheets.

The couple admitted that they resorted to exam rigging because they felt the future of their children would be in trouble if they did not have a permanent job and also both of them had nearly reached the age ceiling for applications.

Mana Kala had requested that normal action be taken against her, not according to the Corruption Prevention Act but according to the Teachers Service Commission Rules.

The revelation

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While studying coding and decoding of the answer sheets, the investigators found the objective section and one subjective section of Mana Kala Acharya (Chaulagai)’s answer sheets were signed. However, another subjective section of her answer sheet was not signed.

Similarly, answer sheets of the objective section of Mani Lal Acharya were signed but both the answer sheets of the subjective section were not signed. While examining the signature of the answer sheet and the number of the answer sheets, it was revealed that the answer sheet number of Mana Kala Acharya’s primary level ‘B’ section was corrected on the attendance form of the examination centre. The commission hence reported that both of them had committed exam rigging.

The CIAA, then, tried to match the handwritings in the answer sheets of Mani Lal (secondary level) and Mana Kala (primary level). For this, the CIAA sent the answer sheets to the National Forensic Science Laboratory, Khumaltar, on September 14, 2020.

The laboratory reported that the handwriting in the answer sheets of Mani Lal’s secondary-level examination did not match with the handwriting of ‘B’ and ‘C’ sections of his primary-level exam answer sheets. Then, it was revealed it was Mana Kala, not him, who wrote the answers, thus amounting to exam rigging.

Instead, Mani Lal’s handwritings of the answer sheets of the secondary-level exam matched with the handwriting of sections ‘B’ and ‘C’ of the answer sheets of Mana Kala. 

Then, it was revealed that they had exchanged the roll numbers while writing the subjective sections during the primary-level exam. And, the examination of the citizenship certificate submitted by Mana Kala in the interview confirmed that the two were husband and wife.

After that, the CIAA concluded that both were involved in exam rigging. The CIAA, then, filed a corruption case at the Special Court demanding one to three months imprisonment and a fine of Rs 10,000 from each as per the Corruption Prevention Act.

Both the teachers have been suspended as the CIAA have made both defendants. 

If the court convicts them for exam rigging, it is almost certain that  Mana Kala will be dismissed from the job. Moreover, Mani Lal, who was appointed a secondary level teacher by passing the examination separately, has also put his job at risk because if corruption is confirmed, people in public office will be fired.

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Gyawali is a senior journalist at Onlinekhabar.

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