The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Lost and found answer paper takes a toll of ten lives

Midnapore/Calcutta, April 6: Ten people have died because an invigilator wrongly suspected a higher secondary examinee of having walked away with the answer paper.

Biswajit Dhara’s father and a group of well-wishers were killed last night in a collision as they rushed through darkness to be with the boy who was being questioned by teachers.

They died without knowing that the missing script was found — not on Biswajit but from a bundle where an invigilator had misplaced it. The vital piece of information that could have saved many lives missed them by minutes.

The tragedy began unfolding when Biswajit, who wrote his chemistry paper-II yesterday at Khodombari High School in Nandigram, about 150 km from Calcutta, opened the door of his room in a mess to a volley of accusations from a group of teachers from his school and the examination centre.

“Where is your answer-script'” the teachers screamed at him. “Don’t stand there feigning innocence. Go, get your father.”

Apparently, the teachers who oversaw the examination rushed to the mess within the compound of Hanschara MD High School — Biswajit’s alma mater — after they failed to trace his script.

Biswajit told The Telegraph from Haldia that among the accusing teachers was Nisith Das, the headmaster of Hanschara MD High School. “They would not listen to me…. They went on accusing me, they told me I would be handed over to police.”

A frightened Biswajit telephoned one of his father’s neighbours and asked him to inform his father — who was in office at Haldia Port where he works as a security guard. The neighbour reported Biswajit’s SOS to Mukti Dhara, 46, after he returned home around 10.30 pm.

Around 11.25, Mukti and seven others — among them a few colleagues and neighbours — set off on the nearly hour-long journey through pitch darkness for Nandigram in a hired Sumo. Less than half-an-hour later, all nine, including the driver, died when the Sumo, running at top speed, collided with a truck loaded with iron ore at Kapasgeria in East Midnapore, 120 km from Calcutta.

The answer-script — one of 307 written every day in that centre — was found by the police. “Our men went there and recovered Biswajit’s answer-script from a wrong bundle,” said Satyajit Banerjee, the sub-divisional police officer of Haldia.

The discovery was not conveyed to Biswajit till 11.30, by which time Mukti and the others were on the road. Biswajit had called the neighbour for a second time, but missed his father by a few minutes.

Besides Mukti, the others who died were Subhas Khalua, 52, Aswini Bera, 54, Basudeb Mondal, 26, Sahadeb Mondal, 30, Sukumar Pradhan, 38, Anirban Nayek, 25, and Sudhamoy Bhuniya, 32, and the driver, Biswanath Das, 22.Anirban had married Biswajit’s only sister a month ago.

Lakshmikanta Das, 42, died of heart attack when he went to bring the bodies for cremation.

The West Bengal Council of Higher Secondary Education has ordered a probe. It also offered to allow the boy to complete the examination from a centre of his choice.

However, on the eve of the physics paper, Biswajit was performing his father’s last rites.

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