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UPSC to go hi-tech with AI, facial recognition for cheat-free exams

By Ashwini Shrivastava
June 24, 2024 17:17 IST
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Amid the raging controversies involving alleged irregularities in National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test, National Eligibility Test exams, the country's premier recruitment body Union Public Service Commission has decided to use facial recognition and Artificial Intelligence-based CCTV surveillance system to prevent cheating and impersonation in its various tests.

IMAGE: Aspirants undergo a security check before appearing for the UPSC Civil Services Prelims examination, outside an exam centre, in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, June 16, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

It has recently floated a tender to invite bids from experienced public sector undertakings to devise two tech solutions -- "Aadhaar-based fingerprint authentication (else digital fingerprint capturing) & facial recognition of candidates and QR code scanning of e-admit cards" and "Live AI-based CCTV surveillance service"-- to be used during the examination process.


The UPSC, a Constitutional body, conducts 14 major exams -- including the prestigious civil services examination to select officers of Indian Administrative Service, Indian Foreign Service, and Indian Police Service -- besides a number of recruitment tests, interviews every year for induction to Group 'A' and Group 'B' posts of the central government.

An estimated 26 lakh candidates are expected to appear in such recruitment, conducted at a maximum of 80 centres in Leh, Kargil, Srinagar, Imphal, Agartala, Aizawl and Gangtok, among other major cities.

"The UPSC attaches great importance to the conduct of its examinations in a free, fair and impartial manner. In its endeavor to fulfill these objectives, the Commission intends to make use of the latest digital technology to match and cross-check the biometric details of the candidates and to monitor various activities of the candidates during the examination to prevent cheating, fraud, unfair means and impersonation," read the tender document dated June 3, 2024.

Accordingly, the Commission has desired to incorporate Aadhaar-based fingerprint authentication (else digital fingerprint capturing) and facial recognition of candidates, scanning of QR Code of e-admit cards and monitoring through live AI-based CCTV video surveillance, it said.

The move is aimed at strengthening the examination process and eliminating the possibility of malpractices by the candidates.

The selected service provider will use the data provided by the UPSC for Aadhaar-based fingerprint authentication of candidates and facial recognition during the exam, according to the scope of work mentioned in the tender document.

"Provision should be made for a real-time attendance monitoring system through secured web server. System should have provision for real time monitoring of the enrolment activity along with GPS coordinates against every enrolment and time stamp to ensure that enrolment is done during the stipulated shift," it said.

The Commission said that facial recognition should be performed in a completely stateless transaction of two images -- one provided during the online registration and the other captured on the day of the exam.

The UPSC said that it has decided to implement CCTV/video surveillance with recording and live broadcast systems to monitor various activities of the candidates and other persons deployed to conduct the Commission's examinations at the various centres/venues across the country under a secure environment.

"The service provider has to install adequate number of CCTV colour cameras in every classroom (minimum 1 CCTV camera for 24 candidates), entry/exit gate and control room (where pre-examination sensitive material will be kept and opened and post-examination sensitive material will be packed) of every examination venue," the document said.

The UPSC said that the service provider will install one CCTV camera for every 24 candidates at each exam hall/room "subject to the condition that at least 1 CCTV camera is installed in every room irrespective of candidates being less than 24."

In case of the exam hall/room having more than 24 candidates, one CCTV camera for every 24 candidates shall be installed ensuring that the CCTV camera-to-candidate ratio is not less than 1:24 and that there are zero blind spots, it added.

The AI-based video system need to be capable of generation of alerts "if any movement is detected at entry/exit gates during examination," and "if the furniture inside the classrooms is not properly arranged."

It will also alert the authorities "if the cameras are offline or are tempered (sic) by masking or black screen," "if there is any movement in classrooms 1 hour before or after the exam" and "if the invigilator is not moving even after the specified time/inactivity is detected in invigilator's movement," the tender document said.

The AI should raise red flags at incidents which would indicate cheating, unfair means, absence of invigilators etc, it added.

The date of closure of the bid document is July 7, 1 pm. The bid will be opened on the same day at 1.30 pm.

The development by the UPSC assumes significance as the Central government faces heat over the alleged irregularities in the conduct of UGC-NET -- (University Grants Commission-National Eligibility Test) -- which determines the eligibility of Indian nationals for assistant professor and junior research fellowship -- and in the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (Undergraduate) or NEET-UG, a medical entrance.

The Central Bureau of Investigation is looking into the allegations of malpractice in both the UGC-NET and NEET-UG exams conducted by the National Testing Agency.

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Ashwini Shrivastava in New Delhi
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