It was a chaotic Sunday for a large number of aspirants who thronged the city to appear for the Railway Recruitment Board exam and Panjab University Combined Entrance Test (CET) for 15 postgraduate courses. The mayhem was not something witnessed for the first time in the city during an entrance exam.
Nearly 25,000 people from various parts of the country swar med the city to appear for 1,150 posts of assistant loco pilots in railways and hundreds of seats in 15 odd post-graduate courses.
On the sweltering Sunday, utter bedlam was seen at railway stations and Sector 17 and 43 bus stands as aspirants from Punjab, Haryana, Himachal and Jammu and Kashmir rushed to head back to their native places after the exam.
What fur the rag gravated the situation was Nor ther n Railways suspending traffic on the Ambala-Saharanpur line due to repair work at Kalanaur station near Yamunanagar. This led to cancellation and diversion of several trains to Punjab and other places.
While the railway ran two special trains between Chandigarh and Ambala for the exam, it proved to be too little as students were seen risking their lives by trying to climb the jam-packed trains. Bogies reserved for goods were also chock-a-block.
“We ran two trains between Chandigarh and Ambala with a seating capacity of nearly 3,000. However, the number of students on Sunday noon was beyond our capacity. We did try our best though,” said, RK Dutta, station superintendent, Chandigarh railway station.
Chandigarh railway recruitment board chairman Rajiv Soni denied to comment on the issue, claiming that he was not authorised to do so.
Divisional railway manager ( DRM) o f Ambala division, Northern Railways, Anil Kumar Kathpal, said the examination, as well as servicing of the rail line, were important. “If there was any chaos and mismanagement, the railways were not responsible,” he added.
The situation was not very promising at bus stands either. Students were seen travelling on the roofs of buses to vari o us dest i nat i o ns in t he boiling heat. The exams not only af fected t he aspirants, but also re gular commuters, who were the worst sufferers. “I fail to understand what is so special about Chandigarh. Why can’t these agencies conducting exams not set up centres in other cities when we have equally good infrastructure there. It was not a one-of f incident and due to examinations has become a regular phenomenon in Chandigarh,” said Harman Singh Sidhu, who runs an NGO called Arrive Safe.
City transport facilities are not well-equipped to deal with a huge rush even within the city, leave aside running extra buses for other states in case of an emergency.
Chandigarh transport director TPS Phoolka said they do get prior information from organisers of exams and make necessary arrangements. “However, we have limited resources. If one lakh students are appearing for the exam, we will obviously not be able to meet the demand,” he added.
Many visitors questioned the laxity of those conducting the examination and questioned as to why more centres were not set up in far off places in Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh.
“It’s high time that the authorities say no to such examinations and ask agencies to set up centres in other states as well,” Harman said, adding that the administration should fix an upper limit for agencies conducting examination.
When contacted, UT inspector general of police (IGP) RP Upadhyaya said, “We do not have any mechanism to ask authorities to restrict the number of aspirants in an exam. Adequate ar rang ements are made for such exams whenever we are infor med by the authorities concer ned. However, we still do not get the exact number of candidates who are likely to appear. Otherwise also, the influx of people is bound to have an impact on the traffic condition for some time.”
UT traf fic senior superintendant of police (SSP) Manish Chaudhary said, “Proper arrangements are made to handle any such situation. But in most exams, the agencies do not write to us informing about the number of candidates. If they follow this practice, we can avoid chaos.”