With nearly four lakh people - 1.5 lakh candidates and those accompanying them - thronged to the tricity for the written exam for the posts of inspector in Punjab's food and civil supplies department on Sunday. Traffic chaos, harried residents and equally harried job aspirants marked the day. The police remained clueless initially, and then expressed helplessness by the end of the day even as thousands remained at bus terminals for the night in the absence of adequate transport facilities.
The examination centres were only within and in the vicinity of Chandigarh, SAS Nagar and Panchkula, it is learnt. Panchkula was still fine in comparison to the other two cities that witnessed rush of candidates from across the region. Police said some candidates arrived a day in advance but the tricity was taken by surprise on Sunday morning when candidates started arriving in droves and headed for their exam centres.Many candidates got stuck in jams and could not even reach their centres. The situation led to protests, for instance, at Chandigarh University, Gharuan, and the Rayat and Bahra campus, where the authorities there had to call in the cops to prevent any untoward incident. Candidates threw stones and broke windowpanes at Chandigarh University and blocked National Highway-21 for around two hours.
Sumeet Singh, who had come from Ludhiana, said they were stuck in a traffic jam in Kharar. "We reached late at the centre by 20 minutes but were not allowed to take the exam."
The mismanagement by police was visible as the manpower was not enough to tackle the traffic mess. Long jams were seen at Kharar, Landran, Zirakpur and even on the inner roads of Chandigarh. A 27-year software engineer, Deepak Sharma, a resident of Zirakpur, said it took more than one hour to clear the stretch between Sectors 32 and 34.
Chandigarh senior superintendent of police (SSP), traffic, Munish Chaudhary accepted that despite making elaborate arrangements, the situation went out of their control. "There was huge influx of commuters in the city due to the exam and also the panchyat elections in UT village," he reasoned. The emergency number of the Chandigarh police control room remained jammed for hours.
The SAS Nagar police blamed the organisers of the examination. "We were never conveyed by the officials concerned that such a large number of people are coming for the examination. We were just asked to provide security by giving a list of centers," said Inder Mohan Singh Bhatti, SSP, SAS Nagar.
*Exam for posts of inspector in Punjab food dept
*It was conducted by Panjab University, Chandigarh
*For 461 posts, there were 1.5 lakh candidates
*The 200 exam centres were all in tricity or vicinity
*Exam in two shifts: 10am to 12.30pm; 2- 4.30pm