Jawaharlal Nehru coined the “Quit India” slogan.

The book, Planned Economy for India, is written by GD Birla.

The Jhabua massacre is known as the Jallianwala Bagh of Madhya Pradesh.

A simple Google search will reveal that the statements above are false. But they are correct, according to the Madhya Pradesh Public Service Commission’s model answer key for the preliminary round of the State Service Examination 2018. This examination, conducted on February 18, is considered the gateway to several senior positions in the state government. The model answer key was published on the Commission’s website five days later.

Who coined the “Quit India” slogan, who wrote Planned Economy of India, and what is known as the Jallianwala Bagh of Madhya Pradesh were among several multiple-choice questions asked during this exam. The correct answers are: Yusuf Mehar Ali (the socialist leader and Indian freedom fighter); M Visvesvaraya (the eminent engineer, scholar and public administrator) and the Charan Paduka massacre.

It is not clear whether the incorrect answers are the result of a clerical error or a mistake on the part of evaluators.

Though the incorrect answers in the model answer key have led to protests by candidates who appeared for the examination, the Commission is yet to rectify the key or issue any clarification so far.

All the 15 incorrect answers are from the general awareness section. “In most of the controversial questions, the correct answer also featured among the four answer options,” said a candidate who did not wish to be identified. “We want the Commission to issue a clarification and publish a new answer key at the earliest. This will help clear the confusion.”

Candidates protest

The protests first became visible on social media last week when some candidates started highlighting the incorrect answers in the key, calling it a conspiracy by the Madhya Pradesh Public Service Commission to make money.

The Commission allows candidates to raise objections to the answers in the model answer key, but charges Rs 100 per objection. With 15 incorrect answers having being detected so far, each student will have to shell out a minimum of Rs 1,500 if they raise objections. The deadline for this is March 3.

Soon, the template of a letter was circulated on WhatsApp. A message urged all candidates to print out the letter and mail it to the offices of top government officials, including Shivraj Singh Chouhan, chief minister of the Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled state.

On February 23, Madhya Pradesh State Service aspirants held protests in state capital Bhopal and Gwalior, and submitted letters to the chief minister and other state authorities seeking their intervention in the matter.

MPPSC silent

This correspondent matched the concerned question paper with the answer key and found several answers to be incorrect. When this correspondent called the office of PC Yadav, Controller of Examinations, Madhya Pradesh Public Service Commission, seeking his comments, he was told that the person who could officially comment on the matter was Dinesh Jain, deputy secretary of the Commission. Jain’s office, however, refused to transfer the call to the officer. E-mails sent to the Controller of Examinations, deputy secretary, secretary and chairman of the Madhya Pradesh Public Service Commission went unanswered till the time of filing this report.

There are reports that the Commission is designing a new scheme to refund the fee if the objections to questions are valid. However, the Commission has not said anything officially on the matter.

A similar controversy emerged in Uttar Pradesh in 2016. In that case, the petitioners alleged that several questions in an exam conducted by the Uttar Pradesh Public Service Commission were either wrong or had more than one correct answer, compelling the Commission to delete many questions during the appraisal process.

In that case, a division bench of the Allahabad High Court held that the very objective of conducting the examination would be defeated if an incorrect answer key was held to be sacrosanct and beyond judicial review. After referring to a Supreme Court judgment in which the apex court had approved guidelines for deleting questions whose answers were suspect, the bench had said that it is of utmost importance that examination questions are framed in an unambiguous manner and hold no scope for doubt.

Another candidate said that the most practical solution would be for the Commission to publish a corrected model answer key at the earliest. The candidate said: “In this case, if the Commission simply cancels all the questions that have drawn objections on grounds of incorrect answers, or decides to give bonus marks to all candidates who appeared for the examination, it will jeopardise the interest of those candidates who answered all the controversial questions correctly.”