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Nightmare at noon for ISC examinees

Hundreds of ISC examinees were delayed for their maths paper on Tuesday afternoon and many of them were in tears after being forced to get off vehicles and trudge through snarls caused by a blockade stretching from one end of Park Street till Park Circus.

Three seats were empty in the exam hall at St. James’ School even as the rest of the examinees were reading the maths paper. The trio were then still walking down AJC Bose Road from Moulali.

At least 20 examinees at Calcutta Boys’ reached well after the scheduled start. Yash Vardhan Agarwal called his mother at 1.15 from Park Circus to say “there is a 50 per cent chance” he would miss the exam.

“I was still in Park Circus at 1.15pm. From my home in Alipore, I usually take the AJC Bose Road flyover but since that was choked, the driver took Shakespeare Sarani and we got stuck again. I reached my school around 2pm,” Yash Vardhan said.

At 1.55pm, Sharad Venkatraman and two of his friends at St. James’ were sprinting down AJC Bose Road. They entered the exam hall at 2.05pm. “It was a decent paper but I was so panicky that I messed it up,” rued the commerce student, who had left his Southern Avenue home at 11.45am.

At Pratt Memorial, almost a dozen girls entered the school crying.

Students of several other institutions — the affected zone is dotted with schools — made it just in time for the distribution of the optical mark recognition (OMR) sheets.

At least four schools confirmed pleading with the ISC council for extra time. Two schools said they started the exam late with the council’s permission.

The blockade had started at the Park Street-Mullick Bazar crossing around 9am and soon extended till the seven-point Park Circus crossing. It was on till around 3pm.

The AJC Bose Road flyover was chock-a-block and vehicles were diverted from the Sealdah flyover. From Sealdah in the north to Ballygunge in the south, Science City in the east to Chowringhee Road in the west, traffic came to a standstill.

CBSE Class XII examinees were spared the ordeal because their exam had started at 10am. But many of them did get stranded on their way back home.

The affected ISC examinees and their parents made frantic calls to schools to say they were stuck. Anxious teachers, in turn, kept calling their students to find out where they were as the minutes ticked by. Some schools called the exam conveners for some leeway. The conveners contacted council officials in Delhi.

“Around 1pm, I received a call from a convener. I instructed the schools to give extra time to all students who reached late,” said Gerry Arathoon, chief executive and secretary of the council.

Examinees usually reach their test centres an hour before the scheduled time. Tuesday’s paper was scheduled for a 2pm start, with distribution of OMR sheets at 1.30pm and the question paper at 1.45pm.

The OMR sheet is a new addition. It is distributed 30 minutes before the exam and the students have to fill in their names, subject codes and roll numbers. “Since most of our students arrived late, we distributed the OMR sheets at 1.50pm instead of 1.30pm. The girls were panicking, more so because it was the maths paper,” said Sonia Pradhan, principal of Pratt Memorial.

At Calcutta Boys’, the exam started 15 minutes late. St. James’, St. Augustine’s on Ripon Street, The Heritage School and Ling Liang High School granted extra time. A student at Ling Liang reached around 4pm and was allowed to write till 7pm.

La Martiniere for Girls, Calcutta Girls’ and Seventh Day Adventist saw many examinees arriving in the nick of time or a minute or two late.