A teenage boy who travelled more than 400 miles to get to an important exam was turned away at the door because he was 10 minutes late.
Santosh Kumar Yadav, a resident of Darbhanga in Bihar, India, embarked on a journey to Kolkata to take his National Eligibility Entrance Test (NEET).
The entrance examination must be taken by all students wishing to study medicine or dentistry at Indian universities.
Santosh travelled for more than 24 hours, changing buses twice, to cover the almost 430 mile (700km) distance from Darbhanga to Salt Lake, a township east of Kolkata where the exam was taking place at 2pm.
Students had until 1:30pm to enter the centre before the doors would be closed. Heartbreakingly, Santosh arrived 10 minutes later and was refused entry.
“I pleaded the authorities but they said I was late,” he told a local TV station.
“The examination started at 2 pm. I reached the centre around 1.40pm. The last deadline for entering the centre was 1.30 pm.
“I lost a year,” he added.
He says a traffic jam delayed his bus by nearly six hours and he would have been on time otherwise.
This year NEET participants were asked to report to their exam centres at least three hours in advance to allow time for new security and health checks introduced during the coronavirus pandemic.
Local lockdowns have caused many transport problems for students taking the exam, with many having to fork out huge sums of money to travel to designated centres in hired cars.
Some 70% of participants in West Bengal were unable to take the important test due to such issues.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state president Dilip Ghosh accused the government of being unsympathetic to the plight of students.
“The Supreme Court said that students should get all help to travel and get accommodation,” he said.
“During the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE), examinees in West Bengal had to face a lot of difficulty and the chief minister had said 70% of them could not take the test. This government is not at all sympathetic towards students.”
State education minister Partha Chatterjee agreed that students faced difficulties in getting to their exams.
“We knew that students would face trouble,” he said.
“The metro railway can carry them within Kolkata but what about those from other districts? Chief minister Mamata Banerjee cancelled the state-wide lockdown on Saturday only to help students travel.
“But they still faced problems because of the pandemic situation.”