Agartala : The 12-hour shutdown Friday called by the youth and student wings of the Congress party to protest alleged irregularities in medical and engineering entrance examinations has crippled life in Tripura.
Supported by the opposition Congress, the state units of the Youth Congress and National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) jointly called the strike to protest what they called “planned and conspiratorial devaluation of merit and gross nepotism” in the Tripura Joint Entrance Board (TJEB) exam.
“The strike was successful with people expressing their protest against the wrongdoings by the Left Front government-run TJEB exam and preparation of merit list,” Tripura Congress president Sudip Roy Barman told reporters.
According to the police, responding the strike call, most markets, business establishments, offices, educational institutions and banks remained closed.
Vehicles remained off the roads and train services were disrupted.
Buses plying between Tripura and Bangladesh and other northeastern states were also hit.
“Hundreds of trucks plying between India and Bangladesh were stranded at the Akhaurah check-post due to the shutdown,” a customs official here said.
However, air services on the Agartala-Kolkata, Agartala-Guwahati and Agartala-New Delhi routes have been “operating normally”, an Agartala airport official said.
“Except some stray incidents, the shutdown has so far been mostly peaceful. No major untoward incident has been reported from anywhere in the state. Police have arrested around 500 picketers from different parts of the state,” Inspector General of Police Nepal Das told IANS.
The TJEB examinations were held in April for selection of students for medical, engineering and other technical courses in institutions in Tripura and other states. The results were declared last month.
“The NSUI, youth Congress and Congress activists have been organising demonstrations, protest rallies and burning effigies of the chief minister and ministers since Monday across Tripura,” Youth Congress president Sushanta Chowdhury told reporters.
The Congress also demanded a judicial probe by a sitting high court judge to unearth the irregularities in the TJEB exam.
“The irregularities in the TJEB exam were the biggest scam in education in India,” opposition leader Ratan Lal Nath told reporters.
The Agartala bench of the Gauhati High Court here Tuesday stopped the counselling of students for admission to medical courses on a plea alleging irregularities in the TJEB.
The court has also seized all the answer-sheets of the exam and directed their scrutiny by hand-writing experts following allegations of alterations in answers.
The court directions came on a plea by 11 engineering and medical courses aspirants, who appeared in the TJEB exam. They alleged modifications in their answer scripts, obtained under the Right to Information Act.
Nearly 3,500 students appeared in the exam which helps students get admission to these professional institutions in Tripura and other states.
The case would next be heard July 20.
Education Minister Anil Sarkar told reporters that the state government would follow the court directions in selecting the students for medical, engineering and other technical courses in institutions in and outside Tripura.
The high court has not yet accused TJEB or found any irregularities in students’ selection process, Anil Sarkar said.
The ruling Communist Party Of India-Marxist (CPI-M), along with its youth wing DYFI (Democratic Youth Federation of Tripura) and students wing Students Federation of India (SFI), organised rallies late Thursday to oppose the shutdown.
“The strike is politically motivated, and not in the interest of the students. If any irregularities are found in the TJEB exam, government will definitely take actions. How would a strike help the students and the commoners?,” CPI-M state secretary Bijon Dhar said while talking to reporters.