Candidates of the PSC exam study outside an exam centre in Darjeeling on Sunday. (Suman Tamang)
Darjeeling, Aug. 4: A private school teacher today walked 12km to Darjeeling to sit for a state public service commission examination in the absence of any mode of transport in the hills because of the indefinite strike.
Of the 2,600 candidates who were to appear for the examination held in two sessions, barely 750 made it.
Officials at the exam centres said hardly any candidate from Kalimpong or Kurseong came as all the centres were in Darjeeling town. Kalimpong is about 50km from Darjeeling, Kurseong nearly 30km from here.
Aarti Rai (name changed) considered herself “fortunate” despite walking for two hours from Jorebungalow to Darjeeling, 12km apart, to sit for a test, which if she qualifies could be a life-changing moment.
Waiting outside the examination centre at St. Teresa’s Higher Secondary School, Aarti said: “I walked all the way from Jorebungalow today. There was no other option. I had a book in my hand and revised all the way to town. I consider myself as among the few fortunate ones as I could at least sit for my examination unlike many others.”
The young teacher said several of her friends who stayed outside Darjeeling could not come for the test.
Figures collected from the three centres — St. Teresa’s Higher Secondary School, St. Robert’s High School and Nepali Girls’ Higher Secondary School — show that only 749 candidates of the 2,696 appeared for the test today. The attendance of around 28 per cent is the lowest turnout in any job examination held in the hills in recent months.
The Public Service Commission held the exam for various posts of block welfare officer, block youth officer, extension officer (mass education), controller of corrections services and consumer welfare officer, among others.
The examination was conducted in two sessions — morning and afternoon.
Aarti started walking from her home at 8.30am. By 10.30am, she had reached St. Teresa’s Higher Secondary School. Her exam began at 1.30pm.
“In the morning, 115 candidates out of 450 came, while in the afternoon the attendance was 141 out of the 450,” said an official overseeing the examinations at Nepali Girls’ Higher Secondary School.
Another official at St. Roberts’ High School said most of the candidates who could come were from Darjeeling and fringe areas such as Dali, Ghoom and Jorebunglow.
“Among the 113 candidates present of the total 400 in the morning I found only 5-8 candidates from Kurseong and Kalimpong,” said the official at St. Roberts’ High School.
Roshan Giri, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha general secretary, had earlier said all emergency services and examinations would be kept out of the bandh’s purview.
But candidates who live in Kalimpong and Kurseong said they knew it would be difficult to reach Darjeeling town, so they did not attempt to leave home.
“Vehicles are not willing to come fearing trouble any moment. We had also thought of coming to Darjeeling on Friday (the bandh started from Saturday) but since it was an indefinite bandh call, we felt we might get stuck,” said a student from Kalimpong.
Only those students who have relatives in Darjeeling could come for the examination as they came to Darjeeling before the bandh started on Saturday.
A woman in Sonada,25km from Darjeeling town, said: “I could not risk my daughter going to Darjeeling to sit for the exam”.