In the last three years, this is my fourth story related to exam scams in Madhya Pradesh.
The repetitive pattern continues to surprise and dishearten me in these stories. After students protest, the government announces an investigation, and a few people are arrested. But concrete changes on the ground remain elusive.
Students who scored less than the cut-off score approached me to report on the irregularities in the Patwari exam conducted by the Madhya Pradesh Employees Selection Board. Those who passed the exam insisted that the government provide them with joining letters. Others alleged cheating and demanded the cancellation of the exam.
A Patwari is a revenue department officer responsible for resolving land-related disputes covering four to five villages.
A challenge I faced while reporting this story was the rampant misinformation spreading on social media regarding the scam.
A viral video featured a woman student claiming to have attained the top position by offering a bribe of Rs 15 lakhs.
I had to fact-check every claim circulating on social media.
A student called me at eleven in the night and shared a rumour. He had heard that the government planned to cancel the Patwari exam within two to three days and would not issue any appointment letters.
The student's voice was anxious, but I tried to comfort him by explaining that decisions like these are taken after careful consideration. I advised him not to worry too much about such rumours, which might not always be accurate.
I visited student hostels near the library and coaching centres in Sidhi district, witnessing first-hand their hardships while dedicating years of their lives to get a government job.
I encountered a 24-year-old candidate who had initially scored 149 out of 200. However, due to the normalisation process—adjusting scores to account for differences in the difficulty levels of different exam sets—his score was reduced to 144, falling short by a single mark. He felt defeated and uncertain about his future. He questioned whether it was bad luck or a flawed government procedure.
I met a 23-year-old student from Satna who told me that after graduating in 2021, she wanted a government job, but her father initially wanted her to get married. Eventually, he agreed to give her two years to pursue her goal. She worked hard and passed the Patwari exam, but her happiness faded when the government stopped recruitment. Now, she's been having sleepless nights, worried about her future.
A 28-year-old student I met had been through an exhausting journey of attempting more than 50 exams over seven years. Success in this exam was his dream come true, and the thought of it being cancelled shattered his hopes.
A 25-year-old student narrated how he studied for 11 hours straight, cooking once daily to save time. He expressed immense frustration and sorrow over deserving candidates losing opportunities to corrupt practices.
The report from the investigation into the Patwari scam by retired High Court judge Rajendra Kumar Verma was due on 31 August.
You can watch Anil Tiwari’s full story here.