Competitive exams for most people are a battle in the examination hall. The time pressure, the expectation to do well, and the creeping fear of failure. However, for Santosh Kumar Yadav, a resident of Darbhanga in Bihar, who travelled for more than 24 hours and changed two buses to cover a 700-odd kilometre distance to reach Kolkata for his National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), the battle was to reach the examination centre on time given that no trains were plying due to lockdown and there was an abysmally low number of buses plying.
He lost the battle by 10 minutes and was denied entry to the examination hall in Salt Lake, a township located in the east of Kolkata.
“I pleaded the authorities but they said I was late. The examination started at 2 pm. I reached the centre around 1.40 pm. The last deadline for entering the centre was 1.30 pm,” Yadav told a local television channel according to The Hindustan Times. “I lost a year,” he added.
Describing his ordeal, the student said, “I boarded a bus at Darbhanga at 8 am on Saturday to reach Muzaffarpur. From there I took a bus to Patna but there was a traffic jam on the route and I got delayed by almost six hours.”
“I took another bus from Patna at 9 pm. The bus dropped me near Sealdah station (in Kolkata) at 1.06 pm. A taxi brought me to the examination centre,” said Yadav.
This incident has led to political bickering between the rival parties in West Bengal.
“The Supreme Court (while dismissing a petition for delaying NEET and JEE) said that students should get all help to travel and get accommodation. During the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE), examinees in West Bengal had to face a lot of difficulties and the chief minister had said 70 per cent of them could not take the test. This government is not at all sympathetic towards students,” said Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state president Dilip Ghosh.
However, the State Education Minister and Trinamool Congress secretary-general Partha Chatterjee said that the pandemic situation was to blame.
“We knew that students would face trouble. The metro railway can carry them within Kolkata but what about those from other districts? Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee cancelled the state-wide lockdown on Saturday only to help students travel. But they still faced problems because of the pandemic situation,” he said.
No matter who is to blame, at the end of the day the fact remains that an aspirant lost a year because of the uncompromising mentality and inhumane attitude of the NEET examiners. Students are braving extraordinary circumstances to appear for the examinations amidst a pandemic. Maybe, the least the examiners could do is show a considerate approach towards them.