GUWAHATI, March 4 - In a damage control exercise after the fire incident in which HSLC examination answer scripts were destroyed at an evaluation zone in Jorhat, Education Minister Sarat Barkataky today said that the incident could be an act of sabotage.
The minister said that there were reports about an internal conflict between the headmistress of the Jorhat school where the incident took place and a section of staff, and that a proper investigation would unearth the truth. �Prima facie, there is no indication of any short circuit,� Barkataky claimed.
He also informed that the strength of night watchmen would be increased at all the evaluation zones and police personnel could also be deployed so that such incidents do not recur.
Meanwhile, in a face-saving attempt, the Board of Secondary Education, Assam (SEBA) has offered to conduct re-examination for the HSLC students whose answer scripts were destroyed in the fire late last night even as protests grew at various corners seeking explanation from the Board and demanding action against those responsible for yet another embarrassing incident for SEBA.
As a second option, the Board has also decided to give marks for the damaged answer scripts on the basis of the candidate�s performance in the five other papers (calculating the average) in which he or she had already appeared, if the candidate is not willing to appear in the examination for any reason.
Board chairman Dhandev Mahanta told this reporter that an emergency meeting of the Board has been called tomorrow in which all other aspects would be discussed and accordingly, steps would be taken to ensure that students get justice.
�What happened was unfortunate, but at the same time we will try and ensure that the students do not suffer. The examinations will be reconducted before March and we have also decided to announce the results on a particular date,� Mahanta said.
The SEBA chairman claimed that altogether 98 packets of answer scripts were damaged and the number of such answer scripts cannot be more than 6,000. The strong room had received over 400 packets, he added.
The answer scripts were of subjects including English, General Maths, Assamese MIL and elective subjects like Hindi, Sanskrit, Advanced Maths, Geography and Computer Science.
As the news spread, members of various student bodies including the All Assam Students� Union and the Satra Mukti Sangram Samity staged demonstrations in front of the SEBA office here against the incident. The AGP and the All Assam Tribal Students� Union have also condemned the incident and demanded the resignation of the Education Minister, besides suspension of the officials of the Board.