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Peasant prays to judge to rescue son from result tyranny

Calcutta, Aug. 29: It’s an envelope costing less than 50 paise. The sender: a “landless peasant” from a village in Bankura. The intended recipient of the letter, written in Bengali that’s far from correct: the “head judge” of Calcutta High Court. The impact: a suo motu case initiated by the court against the West Bengal Council of Higher Secondary Education.

Things, perhaps, could not get worse for the beleaguered council, already reeling under a series of complaints.

The tale of a village boy, who has been moved by the vagaries of the council to try (unsuccessfully) to take his own life and whose father admittedly cannot come to Calcutta to fight a legal battle against the “powerful” council, has now moved the court to do something it has never done before: start a case itself against the council.

Basudeb Mandal, the man who wrote the letter in faltering Bengali to the court’s “head judge”, has identified himself as a “landless peasant” of a village called Chhatna in Bankura. His son, Debasis, became the first from his family to cross the class-X barrier when he passed Madhyamik with 70 per cent marks in 1999.

Goaded by the “success” — the village belongs to one of the most under-developed areas of the state — Debasis’ school (Chanditala High School) waived his tuition fees till the Higher Secondary examination.

It was in 2001 that he appeared for the exam, that, as the family later found out, would change his life forever. He was given only two and three in the two mathematics papers and got 56 in the two chemistry papers.

The school management helped him file a plea for review; the plea, however, like many other pleas, was not attended to by council officials till 2002 when another HS exam stared Debasis in the face.

Debasis chose to fight it out, appearing for the maths and chemistry papers.

But he got zero in both maths papers this time. And the council chose to give him the same number (56) for the other subject. Only, instead of chemistry for which he had appeared, he got marked for physics which he had already cleared in his first try.

A shattered Debasis tried to commit suicide by throwing himself in a river. Here, too, Debasis was unsuccessful; some fishermen rescued him.

Things, however, are not the same any more for either Debasis or his family.

“He has stopped studying and behaving normally,” Mandal has written to the court’s “head judge”. “If this is what he gets, no one in my family will ever have the heart to study.”

“Please do something,” Mandal has pleaded. “I don’t have the money to go to Calcutta and slug it out with the council,” he has added.

Chief Justice A.K. Mathur, moved by the letter, sent it to the three-judge committee that decides on cases where suo motu action is called for. The committee responded positively, sending it to Justice Barin Ghosh’s court for action. Ghosh now has initiated a case on his own.

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