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Politics & Religion

In a First, West Bengal Govt. Imposes Internet Blackouts to Prevent Question Paper Leaks.

In these pandemic-hit times, a day without Internet is difficult to imagine. Today, almost everything is dependent on a good internet connection, starting from online classes, to office work, making payments, purchasing groceries, etc. But what if your internet services get suspended? Well, if you live in West Bengal, here is a spine-chilling and indeed bizarre update for you. Mobile internet and broadband services has temporarily been suspended in several regions of the state on the days of Class 10 state board examination. The decision has been taken by the West Bengal government to prevent unfair activities during the exams.

However, there will not be any curbs on voice calls and SMS services. The suspension will happen on March 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 14 and 16 between 11 am to 3:15 pm. An estimated 2,21,931 girls and 4,96,890 boys will appear for the aforementioned examination this years.

The order issued in this regard stated: “Whereas intelligence reports have been received that Internet transmissions and Voice over Internet telephony may be used for unlawful activities in certain areas over the next few days; and whereas examination of the information received gives reason to believe that such unlawful activities are likely to occur in the absence of preventive measures; and whereas the Constitution of India guarantees freedom of expression or restrictions on the same; and whereas no restriction is imposed on voice calls and SMS and on newspapers, hence communication and dissemination of knowledge and information is not stopped in any way.”

It added, “Now, therefore in order to prevent obstruction, annoyance or injury to any person lawfully employed, or danger to human life, health or safety, or a disturbance of the public tranquillity, or a riot or an affray, through an order under Section 144 CrPC, and in compliance of sub-rule 2 (1) of Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Pubic Service) Rules 2017 and sub-rule 2 (A) of Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Amendment) Rules, 2020 is promulgated that:

1. Any data related message or class of messages to or from any person or class of persons relating to any particular subject, brought for transmission by or transmitted or received by any telegraph within the ambit of the India Telegraph Act, 1885, shall temporarily not be transmitted in the interest of maintaining public order and preventing incitement to the commission of any offence within the jurisdiction of the Block/Police Stations listed in the Annexure and duly authenticated by me.”

The move came after the frequent leakages of question paper through social media sites from some examination centres within an hour of the commencement of exams in 2019 and 2020. Last year, the state board exams were cancelled in view of the pandemic and the students were awarded marks on the basis of their internal assessments.

In 2021, purported images of the Bengali question paper were circulated on WhatsApp soon after the examination started. The West Bengal Board of Secondary Examination (WBBSE), which conducts the examination, however claimed no leak reported.

In a similar incident, in 2019, images of multiple subjects including Bengali, English, Mathematics and Life Sciences question papers were being circulated on WhatsApp. However, the WBBSE authorities had said that the leaked papers were different from the ones used for the examinations.

The question papers were leaked mostly from exam centres in the districts of Malda and Murshidabad. Following the allegations, Partha Chatterjee, the education minister of West Bengal, had sought reports from WBBSE over the matter. The minister had refused calling it a leak as he said that the images were made available half an hour after and not before it.

As per education department officials of West Bengal, this is the first time that the Internet is being officially suspended in the state to stop cheating at the examination centres. On previous occasions, the Internet was suspended, but without any formal announcement.

On October 27, 2021, mobile Internet connection in Rajasthan was suspended for the Rajasthan Administrative Services (preliminary) examination. Internet services in several districts remained suspended for several hours. In Jaipur, SMS service was also banned for a few hours.

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