If the ‘Vyapam’ scam gave a macabre me to technical education in Madhya Pradesh, it is now the turn of Bihar to endure countrywide ridicule after its ‘toppers’ expose. In an unprecedented shakeup, this year’s results of Bihar’s Plus Two arts topper, science topper and science third rank holder have not only been cancelled, they have been arrested as well. They are among the 14 rank holders who were ordered to take re-test after a TV channel blew the lid off the examition racket. When the arts topper filly took the re-test, she reportedly scribbled just two words ‘Tulsidasji pram’ on being ordered by examiners to write an essay on the poet-saint. Earlier, the answers these toppers gave to TV reporters triggered widespread mirth and disbelief. But their arrest has now struck a disquieting note, with Union minister Upendra Kushwaha saying that it is rather corrupt education officials and their political patrons who need to be caught and shamed. At the centre of the snowballing scandal is Vishun Roy College in Vaishali, which has been earning a me for itself as a veritable factory of toppers. This year’s disgraced arts and science toppers are from this college. Last year, the college principal’s daughter topped the state in science stream; now an arrest warrant has been issued in her me. A couple of years ago, this college churned out as many as seven state toppers. The manner in which the college rose in less than two decades of its founding is symptomatic of the widespread racketeering that goes on in the me of education in Bihar. It’s founder-principal Bachcha Roy is a known associate of RJD chief Laloo Yadav. After Roy ‘maged’ to lift his college up by the bootstraps — the high and mighty began jostling to get their wards admitted there, emoured with its ‘success guaranteed’ track record.
And how did Roy weave his magic? It now transpires from the interrogation of a Bihar State Education Board (BSEB) employee that as much as Rs 15 lakh was charged for declaring toppers. Lakhs were also charged from failed students to give them pass certificates. These revelations now buttress allegations that many Bihar colleges are neck deep in the scam, handing out tailor-made answer books to students to ensure high scores and ‘fixing’ evaluation centers and board officials all the way to the top. Add to this other known malpractices like leaking out question papers and professiol impostors sitting in for examinees, and the stink reaches high heavens. The former BSEB chairman, his wife who is a former MLA and alleged kingpin Bachcha Roy have all now been arrested; hundreds of board officials have been transferred, others suspended and some likely to be handcuffed soon. The scandal has caused acute embarrassment to Bihar’s Nitish Kumar government, in which alliance partner RJD is the big brother in terms of MLA numbers. The opposition BJP is expectedly cashing in, complaining that the government’s lack of a zero tolerance policy to poor quality of education in Bihar is ‘bringing humiliation to meritorious students going outside the state’. The moral of the story is that if states do not ensure rigorous standards in evaluating students, other states will worry about their screening. What is more, with education long transferred from State list to the Concurrent list back in 1976, the Central government will keep gaining more ground in education. After AIEEE for pre-engineering and very soon NEET for pre-medical tests, all sorts of tionwide screening tests are likely in the coming years. States will have very little say in education if they do not get their acts together fast.