News Brief

After Bihar, Jharkhand, And Gujarat, A Maharashtra Connection Uncovered In The NEET-UG Scam

Krishna Dange

Jun 27, 2024, 11:54 AM | Updated 12:18 PM IST

Aspirants writing NEET exam. (Representative Image) (Photo by Manoj Dhaka / Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
Aspirants writing NEET exam. (Representative Image) (Photo by Manoj Dhaka / Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
  • The four accused had been reportedly indulging in malpractices for the past two years in several academic entrance tests and recruitment exams.
  • The scope of irregularities in the 2024 edition of the National Entrance and Eligibility Test (NEET) conducted for admissions to undergraduate medical science courses has now widened to Maharashtra. Earlier, the issue was seen as an isolated instance of paper leaks in the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, and Gujarat.

    As per reports, the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of Maharashtra Police has identified four individuals suspected of having violated the sanctity of the exam by seeking large amounts of money from at least 12 candidates.

    Of the four accused, three are residents and employees of the Maharashtra state government’s Education Department, while the fourth individual, Gangadhar Munde, is said to be a native of Maharashtra and is currently based in Gurugram, near Delhi.

    So far, the ATS has arrested Jalil Khan Umar Khan Pathan (34), headmaster of a Zilla Parishad school in Latur district’s Katpur Village, and Sanjay Jadhav (40), teacher in a Zilla Parishad school in Madha taluka of Solapur district.

    Both Pathan and Jadhav have been remanded to police custody until 2 July.

    The police teams are yet to nab Iranna Kongalwar, the third Maharashtra-based accused who is an employee of the state government-run Industrial Training Institute (ITI) in Dharashiv district’s Omerga, and Gurugram-based Munde, who is said to be the mastermind behind the Maharashtra connection of the NEET-UG scam.

    As per the details divulged by police sources to the regional media, images of the NEET-UG hall tickets of at least 12 students were found on the mobile phones of Pathan and Jadhav, along with several coded messages sent to Kongalwar and Munde.

    The investigation team has also recovered bank passbooks from the two accused, showing receipts of large amounts and transfers of the same to the bank accounts of Kongalwar and Munde.

    As per Marathi daily Divya Marathi, in the back account of Pathan's wife, transactions of more than Rs 7 lakh were recorded. The report also said that Pathan owned a residential property worth Rs 1 crore in the town of Udgir and that his family members had not been seen since his arrest.

    Modus Operandi Of The Accused

    As per reports, Pathan would scout for students who would be open to securing a higher score in the undergraduate medical entrance test through illegal means.

    While it is not clear as of now whether the accused had provided a solved question paper of the NEET UG prior to the exam to any of the students in their contact list, some WhatsApp messages revealed that Pathan had asked for Rs 5 lakh from the students for inflating their NEET UG score. 

    After receiving an advance of Rs 50,000, Pathan would send images of the student’s hall ticket and the amount to school teacher Jadhav. The latter would then forward the same over WhatsApp to ITI teacher Kongalwar, who would then forward the same to Gurugram-based Munde.

    Among the four accused, Munde is said to have had access within the National Testing Agency (NTA), which is entrusted with conducting the NEET UG and several other common entrance tests.

    The investigation team has reportedly also questioned 12 students and their parents whose hall ticket images were found on the devices of the accused.

    In their response, the parents of the students have said that the accused Pathan and his associates had received amounts ranging between Rs 4 lakh and Rs 5 lakh from them on the promise of inflating their children's scores above 550. One can score up to 720 marks in the exam.

    Of the parents of the 12 students questioned, the parents of at least seven are school teachers.

    Notably, although Pathan, Jadhav, and Kongalwar were all posted in different locations, all three were reportedly residing in Latur city with their families.

    Villagers of Takli Temburni in particular, where Jadhav was posted, told Marathi news channel ABP Majha that Jadhav rarely reported to the school and that he was running private coaching classes in Latur city, supposedly in partnership with Pathan and Kongalwar.

    Latur, located in Maharashtra's Marathwada region, is a major coaching hub for students across the state intending to appear for the NEET UG and the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE), the latter for admissions to undergraduate engineering and technical courses in the central government-run universities.

    According to a report by the regional news channel Saam TV, the four accused had been indulging in malpractices for the past two years in several academic entrance tests as well as in the recruitment exams conducted by the state government.

    Staff Writer at Swarajya

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