Photo Of The Day

Photo: Dipankar

Photo: Dipankar

Window of Opportunity

When Board examinations are due in Bihar, parents tighten their belts, pull up their socks and transform overnight into expert rock climbers.

The next time your son or daughter is preparing for exams, you can practice your rock climbing. After all, both you and your child have to scale great heights.

They scale walls made of brick and mortar without any fear. Where Spiderman needs a web to swing from one building to another or a spider bite to grow tiny hair on his fingertips, the average fearless Bihari father and brother don’t need that.

For them, the fact that one’s child or brother is sitting for exams is enough reason to turn into Spiderman or an expert rock climber or whatever you want to call him. Take a look at this photo. This is not a photo of some shoot going on for the role of Spiderman or some random extra, these are parents of students in Bihar helping their illustrious offspring cheat.

Gone are the days when parents came to school to give their children Tiffin boxes. Now, they come to school to pass them chits from the windows. But this isn’t the first time such a thing has happened in Bihar. It’s an annual ritual when the Bihar Board examinations take place. Local newspapers have been full of photos of parents and relatives trying to help their children cheat even at considerable risk to their own lives.

The examinations, held by the Bihar School Examination Board (BSEB), began on Tuesday and are scheduled to go on until 24 March. Officials say more than 1.4 million students are taking the tests. They face tremendous pressure because they must pass the exams to continue their education.

Even though cheating in Bihar Board exams has been going on for the past two decades, the pictures once again remind us of the malpractice that is still going on despite police guarding the centre. Some photos even show policemen posted outside the centres accepting bribes to look the other way.

Cheating in exams is fairly common in the Indian state of Bihar, but the images which have emerged in the last few days show just how large-scale and blatant the practice is. Many students smuggled in textbooks and notes into the examination centres despite tight security – and parents and friends were photographed scaling the walls of test centres to pass on answers to students during the current secondary school examinations.

Most of the incidents of cheating this year have been reported from Saharsa, Chhapra, Vaishali and Hajipur districts. Photojournalist Dipankar, who took the photos in Saharsa district, says when he went into the examination hall and began taking pictures, the pupils did not seem worried and students were openly copying from textbooks. Despite the many reports the authorities seem uninterested in taking any action, he says. ?If we try to stop unfair means at a center, friends and family members of the examinees gang up to intimidate us,? Saroj Sinha, a local schoolteacher said.

?It is a big challenge to stop 100% unfair means in the examination,? P.K. Sahi, the state?s education minister, told local media. Sahi added that the onus of preventing cheating should not be placed on the government alone. ?I also want to ask people if it is not the responsibility of the society as well to stop it?? he asked.

Dipankar says during a raid at just one school on Wednesday, the authorities seized sheets containing answers which filled up nine sacks. Nearly 20 parents were detained briefly for trying to help their children cheat, but they were let go after a warning, he adds. Those caught cheating can be barred from taking an examination for up to three years, they can also be jailed or ordered to pay a fine, but punishment in such cases has rarely been reported in Bihar.

Education officials say they are committed to holding free, fair and peaceful examinations and that examination centres are being filmed and special “flying squads” of officials are making surprise visits to the centres. They say at least 400 students who have been caught cheating have been expelled. But they say the government alone cannot stop cheating without help from students and parents.

“What can the government do to stop cheating if parents and relatives are not ready to cooperate? Should the government give orders to shoot them?” the Times of India quoted Education Minister PK Shahi as saying.