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8 June 2024 : Indian Express Editorial Analysis


(Source: Indian Express; Section: The Editorial Page; Page: 12)

Topic: GS2 – Social Justice – Education
  • Exam paper leaks in the Hindi heartland have become a significant political issue, especially in the context of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
  • This phenomenon has directly impacted a considerable number of young voters, primarily in states like Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Bihar.
  • According to an investigation by The Indian Express, there have been 41 paper leaks over the last five years across 15 states, affecting 1.4 crore job seekers applying for over one lakh vacancies.
  • The frequent cancellations and postponements of exams have translated into profound angst and disappointment among young voters, highlighting a critical concern in the educational and employment landscape of the region.

Impact on Young Voters:

Youth Disillusionment

  • The pervasive issue of exam paper leaks and the resulting cancellation of exams have significantly disillusioned young voters aged 18-25. These large-scale standardized exams, intended to be reliable mechanisms for recruitment, have failed to meet their promise.
  • The emotional and financial toll on aspirants, many from remote and marginalized backgrounds, is substantial. Aspirants often undertake debts to pay for application fees, coaching, and training, only to see their efforts nullified by systemic failures.
  • This disillusionment has contributed to a shift in the political landscape, as young voters seek accountability and solutions from political parties.

Examination System Critique:

Standardized Testing Challenges

  • Globally, standardized tests like the SAT and ACT are critiqued for their limited curriculum and emphasis on rote learning.
  • In India, similar standardized recruitment exams are employed by state public service commissions for various government positions.
  • However, the recurring issue of paper leaks undermines the efficacy of this model. Aspirants, who invest significant time and resources in preparing for these exams, face repeated cancellations and delays.
  • This not only disrupts their plans but also fuels a growing distrust in the examination and recruitment process.

Political Repercussions:

Electoral Impact

  • The issue of exam paper leaks has had notable political repercussions. In Uttar Pradesh, the BJP’s poll prospects were significantly affected by the outrage among young aspirants, particularly after three major competitive exams were hit by leaks in 2024.
  • The INDIA bloc effectively tapped into this discontent, promising fast-track courts and monetary compensation to affected aspirants. Similarly, in Rajasthan, frequent paper leaks under the Congress tenure influenced the state’s legislative elections in December 2023.
  • These instances underscore how educational and employment issues have become pivotal in shaping electoral outcomes.

Socio-Economic Implications:

Generational Mobility at Stake

  • For many young aspirants, cracking these recruitment exams represents a chance at generational mobility through securing a government job.
  • The extensive planning and sacrifices involved in exam preparation, including migration to cities for coaching and taking up unrelated jobs for sustenance, highlight the stakes for these individuals.
  • The repeated failures of the examination system not only thwart their immediate job prospects but also jeopardize their long-term socio-economic advancement.

Government Response and Youth Sentiment:

Inadequate Measures

  • The government’s response to curb exam paper leaks has been perceived as inadequate. Despite passing the Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Act in 2024, the persistent leaks point to systemic issues that require more robust and transparent mechanisms.
  • The involvement of commercial players, including coaching centers and consulting agencies, complicates the situation further.
  • The resultant anxiety and disappointment among the youth have not been effectively addressed, leading to a growing sense of frustration.


  • The 2024 elections have highlighted a shift in political priorities among young voters, who have prioritized education, employment, and social justice over traditional issues like communalism and temple politics.
  • The exam paper leak scandals have served as a catalyst for this shift, reflecting the urgent need for reforms in the recruitment and examination system.
  • As young voters continue to seek accountability and tangible solutions, political parties must adapt to these evolving priorities to maintain their support base.
What are the Key Provisions of Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Act in 2024?

  Defines Public Examination:

  • Under Section 2(k), a Public Examination is defined as any examination conducted by a “public examination authority” listed in the Schedule of the Bill, or any such other authority as may be notified by the Central Government.
  • The schedule lists five public examination authorities, Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), the Staff Selection Commission (SSC), the Railway Recruitment Boards (RRBs), the Institute of Banking Personnel Selection (IBPS), the National Testing Agency (NTA).
  • NTA conducts the JEE (Main), NEET-UG, UGC-NET, the Common University Entrance Test (CUET)
  • Apart from these designated public examination authorities, all “Ministries or Departments of the Central Government and their attached and subordinate offices for recruitment of staff” will also come under the purview of the new law.
  • The central government can add new authorities in the schedule through a notification as and when required.


  • Section 9 of the Bill states that all offences shall be cognizable, non-bailable, and non-compoundable.In cognizable offences, police has a duty to investigate the case without seeking permission from the Magistrate.
  • A non-compoundable offence is one in which the case cannot be withdrawn by the complainant even when the complainant and the accused have reached a compromise, and a trial must necessarily follow.
  • It means that an arrest can be made without a warrant and bail will not be a matter of right; rather, a magistrate will determine whether the accused is fit to be released on bail.Punishment for “any person or persons resorting to unfair means and offences” can be three to five years in prison, and a fine up to Rs 10 lakh.
  • If the convict fails to pay the fine, “an additional punishment of imprisonment shall be imposed, as per the provisions of the Bharatiya Nyay Sanhita, 2023.

Punishment for the Service Providers:

  • A service provider, engaged by the public examination authority for the conduct of examinations, shall also be liable to be punished with imposition of a fine up to Rs 1 crore and proportionate cost of examination shall also be recovered from it, if the service provider is involved in illegal practices.

Defines Unfair Means:

  • Section 3 of the Bill lists at least 15 actions that amount to using unfair means in public examinations for monetary or wrongful gain.
  • These acts include: leakage of question paper or answer key or part thereof and taking possession of question paper or an Optical Mark Recognition (OMR) response sheet without authority, providing solution to questions by any unauthorised person during a public examination.
  • The section also lists tampering with any document necessary for short-listing of candidates or finalising the merit or rank of a candidate; tampering with the computer network or computer system; creation of fake website and issuance of fake admit cards or offer letters to cheat or for monetary gain as illegal acts.

Investigation and Enforcement:

  • The bill mandates that offenses under the proposed law will be investigated by officers not below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police or Assistant Commissioner of Police.

Model Draft for States:

  • The bill also serves as a model draft for states to adopt at their discretion, with the aim of assisting states in preventing criminal elements from disrupting the conduct of their state-level public examinations.

High Level National Technical Committee:

  • Formation of a High-Level National Technical Committee on Public Examinations.
  • This committee will focus on developing protocols to secure digital platforms.
  • It will devise strategies for implementing foolproof IT security systems.
  • The committee will formulate national standards and service levels for both IT and physical infrastructure.
  • These standards will be deployed for the conduct of examinations to ensure efficiency and reliability.  
Practice Question:  Discuss the impact of frequent exam paper leaks on young voters in India’s Hindi heartland and analyze how these issues influenced the 2024 Lok Sabha election outcomes. What measures can be taken to address the systemic failures in the recruitment and examination process? (250 words/15 m)

 2. Is it the economy, stupid?

(Source: Indian Express; Section: The Ideas Page; Page: 13)

Topic: GS3 – Indian Economy
  • India’s recent electoral outcome presents a paradox where the electorate punished rather than rewarded a leader presiding over an impressive economic boom.
  • Official data highlights real GDP growth rates of 9.7%, 7%, and 8.2% over the three years leading to the election, suggesting an economic nirvana.
  • Yet, this did not translate into electoral success, contradicting the adage that economic performance drives voter behavior. To understand this, we must delve into measurement issues, economic models, and specific policy impacts under Modi’s leadership.

GDP Measurement Challenges:

  • Within the economic community, it is known that India’s GDP measurement faces significant challenges, including faulty deflators, outdated sectoral weights, and poor measurement of the informal sector.
  • These issues have not received much public scrutiny, partly due to the silence from international organizations and ratings agencies. For instance, recent discrepancies between nominal and real GDP growth figures suggest implausible inflation trends, raising questions about the accuracy of official statistics.
  • Despite these measurement flaws, there remains a broader electoral puzzle to be solved.

Unequal Growth Distribution:

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  • Analysts argue that the electorate’s dissatisfaction stems from the unequal distribution of economic growth benefits. The K-shaped recovery suggests that government policies have disproportionately favored the wealthy, exacerbating inequality.
  • While it is true that standards of living have improved across the board, the growth has been unbalanced.
  • The services sector, particularly export-oriented services, has thrived, benefiting high-skilled workers, while agriculture and manufacturing have lagged, affecting those with fewer skills. This imbalance has contributed to the electorate’s frustration.

Favored Sectors:

  • India’s economic model has historically favored export-oriented services over agriculture and manufacturing. Post-pandemic, the surge in Global Capability Centres (GCC) employment has spurred a construction boom, benefiting related sectors.
  • Conversely, agriculture has suffered from government policies that turn the terms of trade against it, such as export restrictions during price surges.
  • This sectoral imbalance has created discontent among farmers and unskilled workers, further explaining the electoral outcome.

Modi Government Policies:

  • Several policies under Modi have exacerbated economic imbalances, particularly affecting the informal sector.
  • The demonetization initiative, flawed GST implementation, and stringent pandemic lockdowns have devastated informal enterprises.
  • Despite efforts to boost manufacturing through subsidies like the Production-Linked Incentives (PLI) scheme, these have been offset by protectionist policies and a lack of focus on labor-intensive sectors.
  • Moreover, the perceived favoritism towards big business houses has discouraged broader investment, affecting job opportunities and economic growth for the majority.


  • To reconcile the economic data with the electoral results, it is evident that growth has not been as dynamic or as balanced as official numbers suggest.
  • The overall economic pie has not grown sufficiently, and its benefits have been unequally distributed.
  • The unskilled workforce in agriculture, informal, and manufacturing sectors experienced the economy negatively, aligning with ground-level reports.
  • Alternatively, rejecting explanations of faulty measurement and an inherently slanted development model would leave us with an unprecedented puzzle in global democratic politics: that significant economic growth led to electoral defeat.
PYQ: Explain the difference between computing methodology of India’s gross domestic product (GDP) before the year 2015 and after the year 2015. (150 words/10m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2021)
Practice Question:  Examine the paradox of India’s recent electoral outcome where significant economic growth did not translate into electoral success for the incumbent government. Discuss the role of GDP measurement issues, economic inequality, and the impact of specific government policies in shaping this result. (250 words/15 m)

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