|Candidates in front of Fanindra Deb Institution to appear for the primary teacher recruitment exam in Jalpaiguri
on Sunday. Picture by Biplab Basak
March 31: A primary teachers’ recruitment test held on an unprecedented scale today exposed how unprepared the state government was to carry out the exercise which required informing 45 lakh candidates about their exam centres and arranging for public transport to ferry them.
The lack of planning led to harassment for many applicants and caused accidents as some candidates fell from overcrowded trains. Tens of thousands were unable to sit for the examination as they couldn’t reach the test centres on time because of highway traffic snarls.
At the eleventh hour, the authorities decided to extend the 1pm-2pm exam time by an hour but hardly any candidate was made aware of it.
There are 35,000 job vacancies and this was the first time the test was held across Bengal — earlier it was conducted district-wise. “The scale of preparation required was not there at any level. There was no co-ordination among the various government departments which resulted in harassment for candidates,” said a senior education department official.
The state government is seeking legal opinion on whether it can conduct a re-examination.
A look into what led to the problems:
Mistakes in admit cards or incomplete addresses landed many examinees at the wrong centres. According to sources, the education department officials came to know about some of the mistakes yesterday evening.
“They should have informed the district primary councils and asked them to arrange for personnel to be present at the centres to guide candidates to the proper test centres. But there was none,” said an official.
Barnali De’s admit card mentioned that the examination was to be held at Mondalpara High School in Jagaddal police station area in North 24-Parganas. “But my centre was at another school by the same name under Gaighata police station. When I reached Jagaddal at 11.30am, I was told that this was not the venue. But no official told me where the actual venue was,” Barnali said.
She and several other candidates rushed to the Gaighata school, about 65km away, around 12.15pm.
In Murshidabad’s Suti, nearly 300 examinees from Hariharpara went looking for Saidpur U.N. High School but could not find it. They returned home without appearing for the test.
In Jalpaiguri town, there was confusion at Aurobinda High School and Sonali Girls High School, where over 150 candidates, whose names were not there in the exam centre list, turned up for the test.
Guardians and candidates started demonstrations. “We downloaded the exam centres from the website, but our names did not feature in the lists put up at the gates of the venues,” a candidate said.
The chairman of district primary school council of Jalpaiguri, Dharti Mohan Roy, said the matter was settled later and they were allowed to sit for the exam. “We had a reserve quota of 200 question papers and we distributed them among the candidates who were allowed to sit in an extra classroom,” he said.
About 20 candidates could not take the test in Siliguri subdivision as they could not find their names on the list of examinees at the centre allotted to them. According to the candidates, they were also not allowed to sit for the test from an auxiliary centre.
Thirty-five candidates from Raiganj, who had their centre at Kamartore High School, about 30km from their homes, were not granted extra time for the test. “We had arrived after 1pm at the centre and started the exam around 1.15pm and we were not granted any extra time,” said a candidate. Mahabir Jain, the DPSC chairman for North Dinajpur, said that he had received no instructions about extension of time. “We could not allow them to sit beyond the exam period as we had not received any instructions.”
Education department sources said the transport department did not ply extra busses to handle the additional crowd.
To ensure that the large number of candidates could reach the centres on time, the various departments should have chalked out a plan, increased the buses and told the railways to run additional trains. But sources said there was no such move.
In Burdwan district, about 3,000 buses ply on Sundays. “Today, also, the number was the same as there was no request from the district administration to run extra buses. However, the number of passengers was more than double,” said an official of the Burdwan District Bus Association.
“There was no request from the primary education board to run extra local trains. We on our own ran services like a weekday,” said Union junior minister for railways, Adhir Chowdhury.
The overcrowding led to accidents. Kaji Salauddin 27, a resident of Barasat in North 24-Parganas, who had boarded a Hasnabad-Sealdah local to reach Kishore Bharati School in Dum Dum fell off the train.
Police said Salauddin suffered a fracture in the right arm and a head injury. He was admitted to Barasat district hospital.
Rita Das, 23, was critically injured after she fell from an overcrowded Sealdah-Namkhana local which she had boarded to reach her examination centre at Joynagar in South 24-Parganas. She was unconscious when rushed to the Baruipur subdivisional hospital and later to Chittaranjan National Medical College and Hospital.
Thousands of examinees were stranded at various stations, unable to board the packed trains.
Many candidates could not reach their examination venues on time because of traffic snarls.
“The education department should have co-ordinated with the district administrations to use more traffic policemen as deployment on Sundays is less. But there was no request from the primary education department,” said an official at Bikash Bhavan.
This led to long queues of vehicles and candidates were stranded for hours.
In East Midnapore, nearly 50,000 examinees travelling between Contai, Tamluk and Egra were caught in a severe traffic snarl this morning on the Digha-Calcutta Road after a bus and a van broke down near Chandipur around 7.30am on the state highway.
The situation worsened as the day wore on when more examinees in buses, hired cars, vans, motorised cycle vans and two-wheelers arrived and tried to push through the jam.
No traffic police personnel were present to manage the chaos on the entire stretch. There were about half a dozen cops who arrived after nearly an hour but they were too inadequate. Reinforcement was brought in from various police stations and the road was finally cleared after 2pm, by when the official exam time was over.
The chairman of the primary school council in East Midnapore, Gopal Sahoo, said: “Nearly 10,000 examinees could not sit for the exams because of the traffic snarl and other reasons.”
One of the examinees, Bapan Chakraborty, from a Tamluk village, was caught in the traffic snarl and could not reach his exam centre at Ramnagar, about 85km from his home.
In Murshidabad, several hundreds could not appear for the exam as they were stuck in a severe traffic jam in Behrampore town since early this morning after a truck broke down on the Bhagirathi bridge on NH34.
There were about 10 traffic policemen on the road but they could not control the situation. The road was cleared with the help of Rapid Action Force jawans after 11.30am.