Soldier recruitment exam paper leak: Joint probe by police and Army focuses on role of 5 coaching institutes across 3 states

The paper leak had come to light in the last week of February and till now, the case has seen nine arrests, including of three serving Army officers, two serving soldiers, three ex-servicemen and one civilian.

The focus of the joint investigation by police and Army sleuths — into the multi-layered case of leaking and distributing the question paper of the soldier recruitment process — is an elaborate nexus of at least five coaching institutes which train youths aspiring to join the armed forces, sources have told The Indian Express.

Police have till now arrested a suspect linked to one of these five institutes. Of the five coaching institutes whose role has come to light, three are from Maharashtra and one each are from Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

The paper leak had come to light in the last week of February and till now, the case has seen nine arrests, including of three serving Army officers, two serving soldiers, three ex-servicemen and one civilian.

The latest set of arrests last week were of Lieutenant Colonel Bhagatpreet Singh Bedi, currently attached to an Army establishment in Secunderabad and a key suspect in the racket, and Veerprasad Narnepati, an Army ex-serviceman and a serving clerk from a defence establishment in Delhi.

Police have said that Lt Col Bedi, who was heading the process of printing the question paper at Secunderabad, was the one who first leaked the paper. From him, the paper is believed to have travelled through various layers of the racket before reaching persons linked to coaching institutes and the candidates, probe has revealed.

One of the focus areas of the joint investigation is the central role played by people linked to private coaching institutions which train aspirants for these recruitment processes.

Other recent cases of recruitment process malpractices have shown that these coaching classes or persons linked to them have always played a key role in tapping the aspirant who could be lured into paying large sums of money to get recruited into the armed forces.

Sources close to the investigation have told The Indian Express that the three coaching centres from Maharashtra are based at Baramati, Satara, and Phaltan, another one at Guntur in Andhra Pradesh and one at Belgaum in Karnataka.

Police have till now arrested Kishor Mahadev Giri, who runs the training academy in Baramati. The persons linked to four others have not been arrested yet.

Investigation has revealed that the suspect who runs the institute in Guntur is an Army ex-serviceman and also one of the masterminds of the overall racket.

The institute in Belgaum is run by a serving Army jawan. According to investigators, there is a strikingly similar pattern between this case and past cases — desperate youth ready to pay money, role of insiders in the system, either serving or retired personnel, and a nexus of touts and dubious coaching classes.

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On February 28, the Army was to conduct a pan-India Common Entrance Exam (CEE) for recruitment of soldiers for the ‘General Duty’ category. This particular process was referred to as ‘relation recruitment’ as the drive was for those who have immediate relatives in the Army.

The written exam was to be conducted at around 40 exam centres across India and nearly 30,000 aspirants were slated to appear for it. However, after receiving a tip-off about a paper leak, sleuths from Military Intelligence of the Army conducted a joint operation with Pune Police and seized the question papers.

The primary probe revealed that the leaked paper was a 100 per cent match to the original question paper, following which the Army cancelled the entire process.

A senior police officer from Pune City Police said, “While the initial tip-off came from the Military Intelligence of Southern Command, the subsequent joint operation with them has also been successful. Army authorities have lent us crucial logistic and procedural support, especially when it was required for apprehending serving officers and personnel. There is no doubt that Army authorities were keen on making sure that the insiders who were part of the racket were identified and arrested. Army officials also helped us in getting crucial access required to uncover the multi-layered conspiracy.”

Days after the leak came to light, the Indian Army had said that the existing system of recruitment process will be made more foolproof and robust by incorporating the findings of the joint investigation by Army authorities and Maharashtra Police.

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