In an unprecedented step, the West Bengal government has decided to temporarily suspend internet services on the days of class 10 state board examination starting from Monday in some areas of the state to stop cheating, an official said.
The move was necessitated in the wake of reports of purported leak of question papers via social media platforms from some exam centres in several districts including Malda and Murshidabad within an hour of commencement of exams in 2019 and 2020, an official of West Bengal Board of Secondary Education (WBBSE) told PTI on Sunday.
The WBBSE conducts the examination which was not held last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The notice said intelligence reports have been received that internet transmission and voice over internet telephony may be used for "unlawful activities in certain areas over the next few days".
As assessment of the inputs "gives reason to believe that such unlawful activities are likely to occur in the absence of preventive measures", the administration has made the decision, it said.
Though the order did not specifically mention 'Madhyamik' examination, the area-specific clamp on the transmission of texts, images and videos will be in force from 11 am to 3:15 pm on March 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16 - the time and dates of the class 10 board exam.
The notification did not name the areas where the curb will be in force.
The official said the places will be decided as per requirement.
However, phone calls and SMS services will not be curbed anywhere.
According to a source, internet services were suspended on exam days earlier also but it was not announced.
WBBSE President Kalyanmoy Ganguly told PTI: "The board has no role in this issue. It is purely an administrative decision taken by the state secretariat."
Ganguly, however, said no question paper leak had taken place in 2019 and 2020 Madhyamik examinations as the "leaked" papers did not tally with the original ones.
"It was an act of mischief which failed to disrupt the process and we request all to bring to our notice any such act in future," he said.
Several other steps have also been taken to stop students from using unfair means in the examinations.
In a fresh guideline, the WBBSE stated that the candidates cannot go to the washroom till the first one hour and 15 minutes into the exam. Earlier, an examinee was permitted to leave the exam hall after 45 minutes.
There were allegations that examinees keep textbooks or written answers ready in toilets.
Many exam centres will be under CCTV surveillance.
Ganguly said these steps are being taken to prevent malpractices during the exams.
An estimated 6,21,931 girls and 4,96,890 boys will appear for the Madhyamik examination this year.
In 2021 when the class 10 board exam was not held, candidates were awarded marks based on evaluation criteria formulated by an expert committee constituted by the board.