Power cut at MIT tests the endurance of bright minds

A test to select the brightest minds turned out to be not-so-brightly organised. Nearly 560 students, writing the IIT-JEE (Advanced) at the Madras Institute of Technology, Chromepet, had to spend nearly five anxious hours in the exam hall on Sunday — at least an hour in pitch darkness.

The students had just cherry-picked the easy questions and moved on to the challenging ones when the lights started flickering. The students’ hope that the organisers would have planned for the bane of Chennai — power cuts — was a vain one as the flickering soon gave way to a full fledged blackout.

Asha, a candidate, said that though examiners gave them 50 extra minutes, she had lost the momentum when the lights started playing games. “They went off at around 3 p.m. completely. We were in the exam room till 6.30 p.m., and it was very stressful. Most students were panicking,” she said.

The students had already taken a three-hour exam in the morning and were attempting the second session of the test, which was scheduled between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. The aspirants had qualified to write JEE (Advanced) — the final gateway to the IITs, after cracking the JEE (Mains) last month. This is the first time a two-tier system was introduced for students. Across Tamil Nadu, some 3,100 wrote the exam — 2,640 in Chennai and 555 in other parts of the State. Six of the candidates at MIT had scored more than 300 in the JEE (Mains), hence qualifying as the highest scoring students in the city.

The lack of light only made the JEE’s negative marking worse. “In an OMR sheet, you have to answer with a pen and it can’t be changed once marked, so we kept waiting in the dark,” said Pragnesh, another student.

Anxious parents expressed their anger at the lack of proper arrangements. “This is one of the largest centres and it is a government-run institute, not even a private one. Couldn’t they ensure proper backup,” fumed Anil Rangarajan, Asha’s parent. Many parents waited near the venue, in the rain, trying to cajole authorities to restore the power supply.

MIT officials termed the incident unfortunate and said they had made all arrangements. “Since it rained unexpectedly, the generator was unable to supply power. We tried our best and gave extra time to the students. We have also informed IIT officials about it,” said an official.

Logistical problems marred the JEE (Advanced) elsewhere too. Some 25,000 of the 1.5 lakh qualified students in the country did not register for the test — mostly out of ignorance — despite ads taken out by the IITs telling them that they need to register online for the Advanced test.