The Maha Vikas Aghadi government on Sunday faced a major embarrassment as it had to postpone the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority's (MHADA) recruitment exams slated for Sunday and next week at the last minute due to an alleged paper leak.
The announcement was made by Housing Minister Jitendra Awhad at 1.54 am citing breach of privacy. The MHADA exams are scheduled on various dates from Sunday till next week for various posts, including engineer and assistant law consultant.
The minister’s announcement evoked strong criticism from the candidates as well as from the ruling and opposition parties.
The police have arrested six persons for allegedly trying to leak question papers, a Pune cyber police official said. The six accused, who were nabbed on Saturday night, have been remanded to police custody by a Pune court till December 18. Pune Commissioner Amitabh Gupta said that police teams have left for Aurangabad, Jalna, Beed, Pune and Thane, to look for more people involved in the alleged paper leak.
Amid outrage over its decision not to hold the exam, Awhad said henceforth MHADA will conduct the exams itself without involving any private agency, as such cases of breach of trust are on the rise.
He revealed that only one person knew about the Sunday’s question paper. "After the question paper was printed, the owner of the company kept it in his possession despite clear instructions not to do so. He has been charged with breach of trust," he added.
The minister said that fees taken from candidates will be refunded and nothing will be charged for the upcoming exams.
On the cancellation on Sunday, Awhad said MHADA had received information that the paper might be leaked. "Subsequently, the police took action and arrested the suspects. MHADA, however, decided to cancel the exam nonetheless, without waiting for the paper to be leaked". He explained that he had an inkling that something was amiss.
‘‘I had warned authorities three days back to cancel the exam, if they detected any irregularities. Some gangs which leak question papers are operating from Maharashtra. They need to be identified and exposed," he said.
"If the decision had been taken to cancel the exam after the paper leaked, it would have been a disgrace. Moreover, it would have been grossly unfair to those who had prepared for the exams,’’ said.
Leader of Opposition in the state assembly Devendra Fadnavis has demanded a CBI probe into the MHADA leak.
‘‘This is the culmination of corruption, apathy and shamelessness,’’ Fadnavis claimed.
‘‘Millions of students have been hit again! If you can't give them a job, at least don't make fun of them! Take stern action against the culprits! But who will take responsibility for this in the government?’’ he asked.
On the other hand, NCP legislator Rohit Pawar made a strong case for taking due care to avoid last minute cancellation of the examination.
The decision to cancel MHADA exam has come at a time when there is a clamour for re-examination of Group C and D categories of the public health department. Officials and employees were involved in the leak of question papers in exams conducted in October. Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray will chair a meeting with Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar on Monday to take a decision in this regard.