Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Thursday ordered an inquiry into an alleged irregularity in the recruitment examination of the farmers’ welfare and agriculture department of the state, reported the Hindustan Times.

According to the newspaper, the top 10 candidates, appearing in the exam conducted for appointing agriculture officers by the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board, made the same mistakes in the answer copies and got similar marks in different sections of the question paper.

The examination board, popularly known as Vyapam, had conducted the exams on February 10 and 11. Other students, who appeared for the test, have pointed out several discrepancies. All top 10 candidates are from the same region and studied in the same Gwalior college, according to NewsClick. Nine of them belong to the same caste and almost all the candidates completed their four-year Bachelor of Science (Agriculture) degrees in five or more years.

A group of 10-15 candidates flagged these coincidences or alleged irregularities after the examination board uploaded the answer sheet on February 17. The board provided wrong answers to nearly six questions. The top candidates, coincidentally, gave the same wrong answers in their answer sheets, which further raised suspicions.

“Some of our fellow candidates have already told us that few students [the toppers] of Gwalior centre have told some of the ex-students of their Gwalior college that they were going to be selected 100% before the exam,” Ranjeet Ragunath, a candidate from Indore Agriculture College, told NewsClick. “Hence, we connected the dots and began our investigation.”

Another candidate Nitesh Chaturvedi, a student of Tikamgarh Agriculture College, alleged that the toppers scored full marks in the general knowledge section even though the answers to three questions were wrong. “They also secured 195 and 194 marks out of 200 that are the highest scores in the history of the exam,” he said.

One of the toppers, who scored full marks in the mathematics section, had failed in the statistics exam at least four times and completed his degree in eight years, claimed Sachit Anand, a candidate from Satna. “We don’t know whether it is a coincidence or a conspiracy, but how is it possible that they all gave wrong answers, especially to basic questions studied in Class 11?” Anand asked.

The candidates also raised questions about the company which was outsourced by the examination board to conduct the exam. “MPPEB [Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board] allowed a blacklisted company NSEIT to conduct the exam,” Rajesh Singh, a candidate from Gwalior, claimed. “NSEIT is the same company that was blacklisted by UP [Uttar Pradesh] after a question paper of sub-inspector recruitment examination got leaked in 2017. The incidents of leak of question papers were also reported in other exams including the teacher recruitment test in Tamil Nadu and protection officer test of Railways.”

The examination was held for 823 posts in the agriculture department and the list of probable selected candidates was published on February 17. In 2013, another scandal, called the Vyapam scam, was unearthed related to alleged irregularities into the various entrance and recruitment exams conducted by the examination board.