KOCHI: It was 42 days ago that eight Education department staff from the state landed in Lakshadweep for examination duty. With the subsequent imposition of travel restrictions in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the team is now stranded in the island with no access to newspapers and limited internet connectivity. “We are awaiting government orders now. The Lakshadweep administration has promised to arrange a vessel for our return journey, but they need a letter from the state government allowing the same.
We had contacted the Education department and were told that the letter will be sent immediately. However, the island administration is yet to receive a reply,” said Jain Mathew, a Kurianad resident. He said that the team had come to the island on exam duty for 22 days. “The uncertainty regarding our return is what’s making us anxious. We are being provided food and accommodation here, but we have no idea what is happening back in the state. The only network available here is BSNL, but that too is very slow. We don’t even get newspapers,” he said.
There is another factor which adds to the team’s worries. One of them, deputy chief superintendent P K Suresan, is still on medication for a recent surgical tumour removal. The medicine is not available in the island, and he has just enough stock to last about 10 more days. Jain, who is a teacher at the Neezhoor Viswabharathi SN HSS in Kottayam, was deputed to oversee the Class 10 examination in Lakshadweep. Out of the eight officials stranded in the island, three each are from government high schools and higher secondary schools, while the remaining two are general education department staff, who were deputed as special squad members to curb malpractices.
The Class 10 and Plus Two exams were scheduled to be held from March 10 to 26. However, four exams were postponed after the government declared the Janta Curfew and the lockdown. The 18 teachers who were deputed as invigilators managed to return home on March 20. However, the deputy chief superintendents and special squad members could not return, as they had to ensure safe custody of the answer sheets.
The team of stranded staff includes deputy superintendents Jain Mathew, Bejoy Mathew, Viju K S, Sajee Mathew, Mohammed Mustafa, P K Suresan, secretariat staff Raison Prakash and Vinayan. “There were nine examination centres in various islands and accommodation was arranged in the respective islands for us. Three days ago, the administration brought us to Kavaratti, where we are staying together in a rest house now,” Jain said. “I have taken up the matter with the minister and the home secretary. The government is considering an arrangement for their return journey. The matter is under process,” K Jeevan Babu, Director of General Education, told TNIE.