On Sunday, more than 25 million people in Rajasthan, India, were subjected to government-mandated internet shutdowns and restrictions in order to prevent cheating in a mass exam.
Hundreds of thousands of people took the Rajasthan Teacher Eligibility Test (REET), a state-run exam that leads to employment as a primary or secondary school teacher.
It’s a highly sought-after position with generous benefits, and the exam hasn’t been held in Rajasthan since 2018, which could explain why there were so many applicants on Sunday.
Thousands of test centers were set up throughout the state, with people traveling from their homes on government-provided free buses. However, authorities ordered districts to impose internet restrictions to prevent any leaks of information, fearful of potential cheating on the written exam, which has been a problem in the past.
At least ten districts turned off their mobile internet, though several others kept their broadband up and running to avoid disrupting businesses and daily life.
According to Dinesh Kumar Yadav, the Jaipur divisional commissioner, the internet was shut down from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Jaipur district, the state’s most populous with more than 6.6 million residents.
“There were so many candidates … we just wanted to make sure [there wasn’t cheating],” Yadav said. “People tried to cheat but we caught a lot of them. But because of the internet shutdown, the [test] paper was not leaked out.”
He added that candidates sometimes use “different types” of instruments to try to cheat, and that other students “would get angry if they did not get a fair chance.”
According to the most recent population estimates from the 2011 census, more than 25.2 million people were affected by the temporary internet shutdowns in several other major districts, including Alwar, Nagaur, Sikar, and Ajmer. Rajasthan has a population of over 68 million people, according to the same survey.
According to a document tweeted by Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, other anti-cheating measures included CCTV cameras at all testing centers. Candidates were not permitted to bring their own face masks into the testing center; instead, they were required to discard the masks they brought upon arrival and use masks provided by the testing center.