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CM permit for barred students

Calcutta, Feb. 22: Mamata Banerjee today told the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education to give admit cards to 410 “unregistered” students barred by a Calcutta High Court single bench to sit for the Madhyamik exams that begin on Monday.

The chief minister said the 410 students, who Kankinara Adarsha High School in North 24-Parganas had shown as being enrolled with it, would have to take the test on 100 marks for each paper as they had not appeared for the 10-mark oral exam for lack of registration.

“This concerns the future of the students. They have been studying for a year. I have spoken to the school education secretary and the board secretary. We have to take a humanitarian approach. We are making a special case for them,” Mamata said at Nabanna this evening.

“They have to fill up a form at Nivedita Bhawan (the board headquarters in Salt Lake) to get the admit cards. Arrangements are being made for them (to take the test) at a Bidhannagar school. Since they are not regular students, they will have to take the test on 100 marks instead of the stipulated 90,” the chief minister added.

The students will take the test at Bidhannagar Municipal School near Karunamoyee as external candidates, board sources said.

Mamata said neither the government nor the board could be faulted for the students being denied admit cards. “If they were not registered, how could they have got the admit cards?” she asked.

The board, which is opposed to allowing the unregistered students to appear for the Madhyamik, has been taken by surprise by Mamata’s announcement.

The board officials fear that such a move could set a precedent and encourage more barred candidates and their guardians to launch similar protests.

Government pleader Ashok Banerjee, too, had supported the board’s submission in the high court yesterday that the 410 students be barred from taking the exam.

The board’s lawyer had submitted that Kankinara Adarsha High School had only 11 teachers and had the sanction of only 470 students in Class X. But the school had 883 students in the class. Justice Debasish Kargupta had expressed surprise and dismissed the students’ plea that they be allowed to appear in the exam. A group of students and their guardians had then tried to barge into the courtroom and had vandalised some cars on the compound.

An official of the school education department said he was “surprised” that the chief minister had chosen not to follow a court order that had gone in favour of the government and the board. “It may help her gain popularity but not following a court’s order sets a bad precedent,” he added.

Before last year’s higher-secondary exams too, Mamata had intervened in a similar manner and allowed over 1,700 students who did not qualify to take the test.

“The sudden announcement had led to a chaotic situation. Higher-secondary council officials had to make arrangements overnight for the students,” a council official said.

The unregistered students and their guardians continued their protest today, blocking roads at Cossipore, Taratala, Bansdroni and Salt Lake.

Board sources said many of the students on the list of 883 submitted by the Kankinara school were pupils of other institutions that too had admitted students beyond their means. Inspectors sent by the board to the Kankinara school a month ago had found that there were 470 valid students.

The board sent the inspectors after the school dispatched the list for registering the 883 students in December last year instead of September 2012. Registration for the Madhyamik exams is done when the students are in Class IX.