The University of Delhi may have promised that final-year students with no internet access can take their open book exams (OBE) at Common Service Centres (CSC) enlisted by the varsity, but the ground reality seems to suggest otherwise.
CSC managers and operators from different parts in Haryana, Punjab and Assam, who the authors reached out to, said they have “not received any notification regarding the exams.”
Amid the pandemic, DU decided to hold OBE this year, with students set to appear for their exams online from their respective locations. This decision has been met with protests from students, teachers, and activists who pointed out that the large population of economically weak students in the university would be discriminated against by this policy as they do not have adequate digital infrastructure.
In a 1 June notification, the university released the guidelines for the conduct of exams, wherein it said that “students who lack the internet and hardware facility” can avail all these facilities “free of cost” at various CSCs that fall under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
We reached out to 15 district managers for CSCs in various states listed on the official csc.gov.in website. It is a list DU provided on the website.
Only three district managers were aware of the DU notification (mostly from the Delhi-NCR areas), however they did not know what was required from the CSCs
One district manager in New Delhi did not know what CSC academies (or CSCs that conduct classes or can hold exams) are and avoided our questions, asking us to get back later
One district manager from Punjab had doubts about whether all CSCs were equipped enough to be able to host exams, while others such as the one in Haryana hadn’t even heard of DU exams
Priyanka Prajapat, a final-year student at Delhi University’s Hansraj College, called up one such district manager in Assam’s Dhubri district. The district manager was not aware about DU’s OBE notification.
“I called up the district manager in charge of CSCs in my district in Assam. I wanted to know if she could assist me in finding the CSC academy near me, where I can go and take the exam. She said she had no idea about DU examinations.”Priyanka Prajapat, student at Hansraj College
The university’s final-year exams are due to start from 10 July.
Academic CSCs Not Aware of DU Notification?
Since the district managers weren’t of much help, we reached out to several CSC academies through a Google search. We called those who had numbers listed online, which were very few.
“We have no information till now,” said a CSC owner from Uttarakhand. Another CSC owner from Assam said they had shut their shop due to the pandemic, and were not planning to open.
Not just district managers and CSC owners, even colleges affiliated to DU seem completely unaware of the entire process.
“There is no central examination grievance number for students. College personnel in charge do not have any idea about CSCs,” a member of the grievance committee in a DU college told us, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
Locating CSCs a Task
Hansraj College’s Prajapat pointed out another persistent issue that students are facing. “How can a student find CSCs given that the locator website doesn’t display contact details?” she asked.
The university, in a notification dated 22 June, had provided students with a link through which they can locate the nearest CSC.
However, while the ‘CSC locator’ website in the DU circular does give a list of addresses of all the CSCs in that particular town or city, it does not provide any phone numbers. Moreover, the list of CSCs is not sorted by distance.
The mention of mere addresses and a complete absence of phone numbers means that students have to physically verify which of these centres are operational during this pandemic – and which one is meant for them to go and take their exam in.
Students Fret Over Lack of Information, COVID Cases
Enraged over lack of information on CSCs, Hitesh, a Twitter user, uploaded a picture of a CSC in Pithoragarh, in Uttarakhand, that was shut in the afternoon. “If my paper is in the 7:30 am slot, will this centre be open then?” he asks.
Another student, Ankit, took to Twitter to share his experience.
However, for many like Anindita, venturing out is simply impossible.
The third-year MA student from Silchar, Assam, said that since there are reports of community transmission in her locality, she has refrained from stepping outside. “If there’s no phone number and if going out is a risk, how will we even find out if the centre is operational?”
Double Whammy for PWD & J&K Students
The DU notice specifically gives Jammu and Kashmir as an example of an area with poor internet access. However, even this very region has not been properly catered to.
A message by Samiya Aziz, a DU student from Jammu, went viral on social media and WhatsApp groups on Saturday, 4 July, the day of the first mock test. She details how she went to around 15 CSCs in Jammu, but was unable to avail the facilities anywhere, and was turned away.
When contacted, Samiya said, “Operational CSC centers are too far away. My mother and father are both in the defence services, they can’t spare the time to accompany me. What do I do now?”
Even persons with disabilities are in trouble.
Prardhna from Miranda House said that representatives from DU had only called her recently, a week before the examinations. Moreover, the OBE registration form required students to put in a captcha code, which is impossible for a visually-impaired student to do without help. She told us that there was no CSC in her village Chandauli, in Ramgarh district in Uttar Pradesh, and that they were facing major problems in finding scribes for writing the paper due to the ongoing pandemic.
Rajesh Jha, a member of DU’s Executive Council, commented on Twitter, saying that the council wrote a letter expressing concerns about the lack of CSCs spread across India mid-May to the Vice Chancellor of DU. Unfortunately, they were ignored.
Despite repeated calls and an email, the University of Delhi has not responded to queries sent by The Quint. This piece will be updated if and when the varsity officials respond.
(Ria Chopra, Nikkhil Kalia and Parush Khurana are final-year students at the University of Delhi.)
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