Thiruvananthapuram/Chennai: Medical education aspirants across several states in the country have been likely indulging in identity fraud to ace the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) with the aid of middlemen. A Keralite agent has been arrested by the Tamil Nadu Police over identity fraud resorted to by medical aspirants to secure admission to medical colleges. George Joseph, a native of Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, was nabbed allegedly for arranging NEET trainers or MBBS students to write the exam on behalf of real candidates in a massive inter-state scam that came to light with the chance arrest of an impersonator recently.
Already nine people have been arrested and they include four MBBS students from Tamil Nadu and their guardians.
George’s role was revealed during the interrogation of the arrested. George, who runs an entrance coaching centre in Kerala capital, is suspected to be the mastermind in the case. George, who is under the custody of the Tamil Nadu Crime Branch, is now being interrogated.
George’s accomplices, Mohammed Shafi of Vellore and Rafi of Bengaluru, allegedly helped in finding people to commit the fraud.
George took Rs 23 lakh from the students to arrange for an imposter to write the exam. Ahead of the exam, the students had to give Rs 1 lakh. When the medical admission is confirmed, they have to give the remaining amount as part of the deal, investigators said.
It is suspected NEET trainers or MBBS students themselves wrote the exam on behalf of the candidates. The database of students at medical colleges would be checked to unravel the extent of the fraud.
Medical students arrested
After the massive scam was exposed, the police arrested first-year MBBS students Udith Surya, Abhirami, Praveen and Rahul from various colleges in Tamil Nadu. Their guardians are among the eight already arrested and being interrogated in Chennai.
The scam was exposed after the interrogation of Udit Surya, a student at Theni Government Medical College. He was caught and questioned after the photo on his college identity card did not match with the one on the NEET ID.
Surya had revealed that at least four students had won admission to medical colleges through impersonation. The Tamil Nadu CB-CID then conducted raids in Thiruvananthapuram and detained George, following leads from Surya.
The probe team would also go to Maharashtra, where Surya's exam centre is located.
Efforts are also on to locate the person who wrote the exam for him.
A first-year MBBS student of the Dharmapuri Medical College, Muhammed Irfan, who got admission in this fraudulent manner, has reportedly fled to the Mauritius.
Separate interrogations of Surya, and his father Dr Venkitesh, director of the Stanley Medical College, revealed shocking details of the fraud. Several middlemen are involved in the racket. The person who wrote the exam would get Rs 20 lakh. However, it was not known how much the middlemen got.
Surya had written the exam twice earlier. A certain Rasheed, who he had met outside an exam centre, had led him to the middlemen in the case, Dr Venkitesh said in his statement. Dr Venkitesh was on Wednesday suspended as the director of the Stanley Medical College, which is run by the state-government.
Allegedly seven candidates, including Surya, had sought admission through impersonation. Two of them failed in the NEET test and four others are pursuing MBBS at various medical colleges. The probe team revealed that one person was the son of Dr Venkitesh's friend.
Meanwhile, the Theni Medical College registrar Dr S Rajendran has given in a police complaint, citing threat to life. Rajendran had unearthed the impersonation and informed the college educational director.
The complaint said that two other college employees were also involved in the scam.
Fraud as old as NEET?
Dr Venkitesh said agents had told him that ever since the NEET exam was started in 2013, students have been winning admission to medical colleges through impersonation and are studying at Chennai colleges. One of his close friends had also advised him to seek the help of impersonators. His son had got the admission to the medical college through impersonation.
The CB-CID has reportedly summoned a student of a prominent private medical college in Chennai and his father. The probe team had found that the dealer Rasheed, who was involved in Udit Surya case, also helped this student to commit fraud.
The exam for this student was written in Delhi.
Though the probe has been initiated, the team is cautious in their moves as it may affect the future of students enrolled in colleges.
Coimbatore students get clean chit
Meanwhile, two students of the PSG Medical College in Coimbatore, who were summoned for questioning over photo mismatch, have been given a clean chit by the Medical Educational Directorate. The students can continue their studies as they have been issued a no-objection certificate.