— Written by Biplob Das
Following protests by third-year undergraduate students of various colleges affiliated to Gauhati University demanding a complete re-evaluation of their fifth semester results, which they alleged were full of discrepancies, the university on Wednesday agreed to allow re-evaluation, for free, but insisted that there were no issues from its side.
The third-year undergraduate students protested within the university premises on Tuesday and alleged that Assam Police personnel entered university premises to remove protesters from the site and manhandled several students. The police, the students claimed, also temporarily detained some students in a bus, including a few Post-Graduate Student Union (PGSU) members. A few students suffered minor injuries while clashing with the police and had to be admitted to hospitals, the students further alleged.
Following the protests, the university on Wednesday published a notice agreeing to allow free re-evaluation of exam results for all third-year students. The re-evaluation usually costs a student Rs 560 per paper, with a maximum of three papers allowed for re-evaluation.
“The examinations for fifth semester undergraduate students were held around February to March and the results were declared only on July 29, that too at 2 or 3 am. Several students were marked ‘absent’ despite appearing for the exams. In many colleges, students got ‘Backs’ (Fail) in the same subject on a mass scale, and there are many cases where individual students got up to three or four ‘Backs’ in different subjects,” PGSU President Hemen Kalita said.
Describing the clashes with the police, Kalita added, “On Tuesday, the police interfered in a democratic protest inside a university campus and manhandled me and other students, even while we were trying to engage in dialogue with the administration and the police. I got injured in my neck and my hands.”
Pallab Pratim Hazarika, a third-year student of ADP College, Nagaon, said he was marked absent in all the papers despite appearing for all the exams. “All students in our department (Economics) have been marked absent. Half the students in the Hindi department of our college have been marked absent. Half the students of the Statistics department have been marked absent too,” he said.
Hazarika cited another incident from the fourth semester where some of his friends were wrongly marked absent. “They applied for re-evaluation to correct the mistake but the university still has not gotten back to them,” he claimed.
Controller of Examination, Gauhati University, Dhrubojyoti Choudhury told The Indian Express that there was no discrepancy from his office or the university’s side. “The fact is that many students have failed. Ours is a grading system, students do not understand it properly. Below a certain mark you will get an F or a zero, it does not matter what the exact mark is,” he remarked.
Choudhury further indicated that students had performed badly because the examination in question was held offline. He stated, “What I understood from the protest was that the students simply want a pass mark, similar to what they were given in the previous semesters.”
Clarifying the numerous instances of students being marked absent on their marksheets, Choudhury said, “Before the exams, students have to sign into our portal and select the code for the papers they will be appearing for. However, many students make mistakes in the process by selecting any random code. Especially students from rural areas where most students use the portal through internet cafes. Usually, people in the cafe make those mistakes. After they appear for the exam, our system does not recognise it (the code) and hence (they are marked) absent appears in their marksheets. That can be corrected if they apply for re-evaluation with their course details.”
Students complained about the university portal too. PGSU Vice-President Nabadeep Borgohain said that the portal itself was extremely inefficient. “IUMS (Integrated University Management System) is the portal that GU uses. The third-party company offering the university this service is ITI. GU’s five-year contract with ITI ends this month. One of our demands is that the university look for a different system or invest in a system of their own, so that students can get over this unhelpful portal,” he stated.
Choudhury, however, maintained that there was no issue with IUMS. “The portal has no problem, and is compulsory for most universities. The complaints with ITI are a different matter,” he remarked.
Meanwhile, Gauhati University has already started entrance examinations for its masters programmes.
Mrinmoy Barman, a third-year Zoology student from Nalbari College, said that if the re-evaluation process does not happen soon, their chances of getting admission for masters into GU and other universities in Assam seems difficult. “Filling up forms has already begun for the post-graduate admissions. GU has already charged Rs 850 to Rs 1,000 per application. Those students who already submitted their application have discovered now that there are ‘Fails’ in their fifth semester results,” he said. Mrinmoy alleged that his marksheet had three ‘absents’ even though he appeared for all the exams.
Students said that is not the first time that the university has had issues with its examination process. “Every year, we have to sit for protests or go through a long process to appear for exams and get our results smoothly. When will these problems stop?” Mrinmoy asked.