“Never in my wildest dreams did I feel that one day I have to suffer the trauma of my daughter’s suicide, who was an above-average student with 80 per cent marks throughout school. She scored 90 per cent in the first intermediate, but failed in the second,” cries Sirisha’s father Lakshamaiah, from Warangal. Such were the heartrending laments of other parents whose wards ended their lives due to the botched up evaluation process in the Telangana State Board of Intermediate Education’s (TSBIE) examinations.
A total of 9.74 lakh students wrote the Intermediate examinations held in February-March, out of which an astounding 3.28 lakh failed to secure pass marks. The marksheets of many verged on the bizarre—abnormally low marks scarcely possible to fetch. A girl from Mancherial district got ‘00’ in Telugu, instead of the 99 she actually scored. Till now, 25 students have taken their own lives.
As culpability of the shocking bungling points to TSBIE, it has emerged that it re-engaged a private, and blacklisted, IT firm, Globarena Technologies (GTPL), for conducting the exam.
“It’s a clear case of violation by the TSBIE. How can the board take the risk of engaging a firm not fit to be considered?” asks noted academic Visweshwar Rao. He says GTPL is not qualified to fulfil the sixth and seventh criteria of the tender issued by the Board. The sixth condition says that the firm should have executed technology-based examination solutions for a single board/government university with a single purchase order with three lakh enrolled students a year within the past five years. GTPL, it is learnt, did not meet this condition. Moreover, it had never been involved in pre- or post-examination work. It’s being alleged that Globarena’s selection has not been done through a valid tender but through a purchase order at the discretion of officials. “As per the TSBIE contract, GTPL was to implement an end-to-end programme for 2018-2019 and to undertake the pilot project of implementing the end-to-end programme for 2017-2018. It failed to do so,” Rao said.
With angry parents demonstrating and political barbs directed at the Telangana Rashtra Samiti government, CM K. Chandrasekhara Rao responded by ordering a probe and directing a revaluation of papers of all students. That’s a bitter pill for parents or academics who mourn the loss of young lives.
Left parties allege that the government is succumbing to pressures of the private college lobby and hurrying up exams in a bid to catch up with national competitive exam schedules. The Congress-led Opposition has submitted a memorandum to the governor, demanding the dismissal of education minister Jagadeeshwar Reddy and those responsible in the TSBIE, besides taking criminal action against the GTPL. The National Human Rights Commission has also slapped a notice on the state government. TSBIE, on its part, has sacked two junior employees for the fiasco. “It’s just a cover-up,” alleges Rao.
“Recounting and revaluation will not help. Government should instruct the correction of all 40 lakh answersheets by engaging qualified people,” argues Prof Kodandaram, who has been entrusted by the Opposition and other student and parent organisations to pressure the government to sort out the sorry mess.
The stakes are high in intermediate examinations—the marks obtained will have a 25 per cent weightage in determining EMCET (Engineering Medical Common Entrance Test) ranks. Naturally, the government should conduct such an important examination in a fool-proof manner. It has failed the student community this year; it should be the last time.
By M.S. Shanker in Hyderabad