Patna: Authorities in Bihar are perplexed over the continuing disappearance of Grade 10 evaluated answer scripts from schools’ strongrooms at frequent intervals. The trend points towards a big scandal in the education department.

In a new development, more than 82,000 evaluated answer-sheets have gone missing from the strongroom of a government high school in Nalanda, the home district of Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar.

The issue of missing answer-sheets came to light after an official from Bihar School Examination Board (BSEB), Patna, Rajkishore Prasad Gupta rushed to the school on Wednesday with a van and labourers to carry them. The official was stunned to find no answer scripts stored in the school room after it was unlocked in the presence of school principal and other teachers.

Subsequently, the official had to return empty-handed. All the missing answer scripts relate to 2016, officials said.

The authorities have now begun investigation in the case. “The answer sheets have not been stolen, it looks like they have been sold by the school staff,” local district education officer Ram Sagar Singh told the media Friday. The needle of suspicion is said to be moving towards the school headmistress Nitu Bharti and other school staff.

This is the fourth incident involving loss of evaluated answer-sheets in the past 20 days. Earlier this month, the authorities had ordered an investigation after around 7,000 answer-sheets of Grade 10 students were set on fire by unidentified miscreants apparently in a bid to destroy evidence of possible large-scale irregularities in the examination. The sheets had been stored in the strongroom of a Girls plus-two school in East Champaran district of Bihar.

In another incident, 5,682 practical copies of Grade 10 and Grade 12 students were found missing from Rajendra Prasad High School-cum-Inter College located in Hathua block of Gopalganj district in June end.

Before that, around 43,000 evaluated answer-sheets of Grade 10 students had gone missing from another school in the same Gopalganj district, prompting the authorities to postpone release of examination result for a week.

During the course of investigation, the authorities later found that all those 43,000 answer-sheets had been sold to a scrap dealer for Rs8,500 (Dh455) and jailed the school principal, peon and other persons involved in the shady deal. They, however, are still to recover all the missing answer-sheets although a few of them have been found.