Hundreds of panicked students scrambled out of Hampi Express (train no. 16591) when it finally pulled into Yeshwantpur Junction station after a delay of nearly seven hours on Sunday. The train, which runs from Hampi to Bengaluru via Mysuru, was filled with students aspiring for medical and dental seats who were to appear for the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) on Sunday.
By the time the train arrived at 2.36 p.m., the test was well under way. The examination was held between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m., and no student was allowed into any centre after 1.30 p.m.
Across centres, candidates tried to plead with invigilators to allow them in, but to no avail. The aunt of a candidate who was to appear for the exam said the authorities pointed out that nothing could be done as the hall ticket clearly directed all candidates to visit their examination centre a day before to confirm its location. “We are being told that it is our mistake and that we should have paid attention to this,” she said.
Student organisations also staged a protest and urged the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) to give students another chance.
SWR draws flak
South Western Railway (SWR), which has come under criticism from students and parents, said it would write to the ministry seeking a rerun of the exam. “We will send a letter to the MHRD on Monday to conduct a re-examination for students who travelled by Hampi Express, which reached Bengaluru/Mysuru on Sunday, and missed the NEET,” said SWR public relations officer E. Vijaya.
As an explanation for the delay, railway authorities said Hampi Express was being run on a diverted route via Ballari–Rayadurga–Chikkjajur–Arsikere–Tumakuru instead of the original route of Ballari–Guntakal–Dharmavaram–Penukonda–Yelahanka. “This was because of the ongoing non-interlocking work for track-doubling between Guntakal and Kalluru.
The diverted route is 120 km longer and involves an engine reversal at Ballari,” Ms. Vijaya said. In addition to this, the Hampi Express, which departed on May 4 from Hubballi, was rescheduled by two hours and reserved passengers of the train were intimated of the diversion and rescheduling by SMS.
The authorities said while the scheduled departure from Hubballi was 6.20 p.m. the actual departure was at 8.20 p.m. This was on account of the late arrival of the incoming pairing (train no. 16592 Mysuru–Hubballi Hampi Express), which ran late by nearly three hours.
Test centres changed
Many students missed the NEET after they learnt that the examination centre allotted to them had been changed to another one some 44 km away. Students discovered this only on reaching the original centre on Sunday.
However, quick thinking by one parent helped a few students write the exam even in this situation. Shivanna H., a parent from Chitradurga, said he reached Presidency School in Yelahanka at 10 a.m. and realised that the examination centre had been shifted to School of Engineering, Dayananda Sagar University, on Hosur Road, which was 44 km away. “I immediately booked a cab for my son and asked other students who were in a similar situation to go along with him,” he said.
Mr. Shivanna said that between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., he tried to help as many students as he could, directing them to the new centre and making transport arrangements for some. “We did not even get a message or mail that our examination centre had been shifted. Several students from other towns had no idea about this and found it difficult to reach the [new] examination centre,” he said.
He added that if the examination centre had to be changed, the authorities should have done so to a centre close by or informed all the candidates in advance.
The National Testing Agency (NTA) had changed four examination centres in Karmataka and put up a public notice on Thursday, but this centre was not listed. A student who missed the examination said that his hall ticket also said Presidency School, not Dayananda Sagar University. “We have to lose an entire year now because of the NTA’s carelessness,” he said.