Millions of Indian students to resit exam after test leaked

Millions of Indian students are being forced to resit their finals after high school exam papers were leaked ahead of crucial tests. (AFP)
Updated 29 March 2018
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Millions of Indian students to resit exam after test leaked

NEW DELHI: India on Thursday vowed to strengthen its online security after high school exam papers were leaked ahead of crucial tests, forcing millions of students to resit their finals.
Education Minister Prakash Javadekar said an investigation was underway into how the mathematics and economics papers were accessed and spread via WhatsApp before the exam.
“The criminals who did this won’t be spared. I am sure police will catch these people soon. Let me assure that we will further improve the system and make it foolproof,” he told reporters Thursday.
It is another embarrassment for a government which has weathered storms around alleged cracks in its Aadhaar system, a database containing the personal details of more than one billion Indians.
It comes as Facebook reels from a scandal over user data and India’s ruling and main opposition parties accuse each other of mining and sharing followers’ personal information.
The row erupted this weekend after a French security researcher flagged flaws with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s personal app, alleging that users’ data was being shared without their consent.
The main opposition Congress party’s Rahul Gandhi used the exam leak to revive the attack on Modi’s administration over digital security.
“2.8 million students to take exams again!! I mean is it a bloody joke? Who is accountable for this big mess?,” he posted on Twitter.
The Central Board of Secondary Education papers are crucial for students hoping to secure admission some of India’s most prestigious public universities and there was widespread anger at the leak.
Javadekar said he “understood the pain and anguish and frustration” of parents and students following the breach.
India’s information technology ministry last week formally requested that Cambridge Analytica — the data analysis company at the center of a Facebook privacy scandal — provide clarity over its practices by the end of the month.
Cheating in exams is common in India including paying large bribes to buy test papers, although there have been more elaborate ruses.
Hundreds of people were arrested in eastern Bihar state in 2015 for scaling the walls of schools and providing crib sheets and study materials to their relatives during exams.
School authorities also created a furor last May when a student was made to remove her bra in public before an exam to ensure she had not hidden notes inside.


Japan’s Okinawa votes on controversial US base move

Updated 13 min 1 sec ago
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Japan’s Okinawa votes on controversial US base move

  • Polls opened early on Sunday morning, with about 1.15 million Okinawans eligible to vote
  • Japan’s military alliance with the United States is seen as a key partnership

OKINAWA: Residents of Japan’s Okinawa were casting ballots Sunday in a closely watched referendum on the controversial relocation of a US military base to a remote part of the island.
The vote is seen as highly symbolic but is also non-binding, raising questions about what effect it will have, even if opponents of the move, including Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki, prevail.
The ballot asks residents whether they support a plan to reclaim land at a remote coastal site for the relocation of the Futenma base from its current location in a heavily-populated part of Okinawa.
It was initially planned as a yes-no vote on the move, but a “neither” option was added after several cities with close ties to the central government threatened to boycott the vote.
Polls opened early on Sunday morning, with about 1.15 million Okinawans eligible to vote. The Jiji Press agency reported around 20.5 percent of eligible voters had already cast ballots in early voting by Saturday.
“They are using a lot of tax money and manpower for this referendum, even though the result will not have any legal power. So, we thought that we should take this opportunity and think very carefully about this issue,” said Yuki Miyagaki, after casting her ballot at a local school.
“We usually shout no to the new base construction. This is a good opportunity to tell the government directly with concrete numbers: ‘No’. This is an important vote,” 32-year-old Narumi Haine said.
Although the referendum is not legally binding, “it is significant that people in Okinawa can express their will through the vote,” said Jun Shimabukuro, a professor at Ryukyu University in Okinawa.
“It can be a test to gauge if democracy is working in Japan,” Shimabukuro said before voting opened.
The relocation of Futenma to Nago, 50 kilometers away, was first agreed in 1996 as the US sought to calm local anger after US servicemen gang raped a local schoolgirl.
But the plan has long been stalled in part over local opposition.
The Futenma base has stoked tension with local residents over problems ranging from noise and military accidents to crime involving base residents.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government says the relocation will address those concerns, but many in Okinawa want the base relocated elsewhere in Japan.
They argue that the region bears a disproportionate burden when it comes to hosting US military troops in the country.
Okinawa accounts for less than one percent of Japan’s total land area, but hosts more than half of the approximately 47,000 American military personnel stationed in Japan.
Anti-base rallies have been staged daily in Okinawa since campaigning for the referendum began in mid-February.
But the vote has not stopped reclamation work at Nago, with construction workers continuing to shovel dirt into the ocean offshore with bulldozers.
“We hope the referendum will boost the momentum of our fight,” demonstrator Masaru Shiroma told AFP on Friday, as more than 100 fellow activists tried to block trucks entering the construction site on Friday.
“The government is making a fool out of Okinawa.”
The ballot closes at 8:00P.M. with exit polls expected soon after and official results from as early as midnight.
Okinawa’s governor is required to “respect” the vote’s outcome if at least a quarter of eligible voters — around 290,000 votes — vote for any one option.
Tamaki has urged residents to turn out and cast their “precious votes” in the poll.
An opinion poll by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper this week found 59 percent of people in Okinawa oppose the reclamation while 16 percent support it.
The survey also found 80 percent of respondents want Abe’s government to respect the results.
But there has been little sign Abe’s government will shift course if the vote goes against the move, with Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga saying there were no plans to halt the relocation regardless of the outcome.
Japan’s military alliance with the United States is seen as a key partnership, and Okinawa’s location near Taiwan has long been viewed as having huge strategic importance for US forward positioning in Asia.