IM this article to a friend!

February 4, 2005

Students pass gas to avoid exams!

From: Mid-Day Mumbai, India - Feb 4, 2005

By: Swati Ali
February 4, 2005

When the TYBCom prelims of Goregaon's Sanskardham Vidyalay were cancelled yesterday, few students rejoiced.

Instead, they stumbled out of the exam centre coughing, wheezing and vomiting. The 42 young students of the School for the Hearing Impaired, where the exam was being held, suffered the same ghastly effects.

The students were victims of a mysterious, acrid gas that clouded the air soon after the TYBCom students began to write the exam at 9 am.

College authorities now suspect this was part of an elaborate plot by a few students who wanted the exam cancelled.

The prelims were being held in three classrooms on the ground floor of the school, which is affiliated to and adjoins Sanskardham Vidyalay.

The windows of the classrooms face the assembly ground. The gas spread to the deaf children in a matter of seconds, who were at the time in the midst of their morning assembly.

Pandemonium ensued as the students and teachers almost immediately began to experience symptoms and began pouring out of the classrooms.

"It was a bitter, stinging smell. I have never smelt anything like it before, not even in our chemistry lab. It was not ammonia or sulphur dioxide — we can recognise those smells. We were trying to breathe, but it felt like something was stopping us — like there was no air to take in," said Sandeep Yadav, a Std XII science student.

Suchitra Prasad, documentary filmmaker and mother of Shrinivas, one of the deaf children, happened to be there at the time.

"There was commotion everywhere. Thankfully, the college management had the presence of mind to call the fire brigade," she said.

A fire brigade official said, "We first vacated all the three floors of the building and opened all doors and windows to allow the air to clear. However, we have not discovered the source or identity of the gas. Police will now continue with the investigation."

Dr Krishnakant Bhargava, former head of the ENT department of Sion hospital said, "The gas could be anything, perhaps even an insecticide. But it is a myth that the hearing-impaired are more sensitive to smells. Everyone would have been affected similarly."

Shailaja Sangle, the college principal, has filed a case at the Goregaon police station.

Sources in the college are convinced that there's something fishy about the whole affair.

"It is definitely a ploy by some students who did not want to appear for the exam. Immediately after some of the Std II students on the ground floor started coughing, a few boys sitting in the back row came forward and handed in their answer sheets, saying the exam would have to be cancelled."

Inspector Shatrughan Rane, who is heading the probe, said, "The college management suspects foul play. But by the time we reached the college, all the students had left and it was not possible to conduct an investigation. But we will definitely interrogate the TYBCom students tomorrow."

The college is yet to reschedule the exam.

© 2005 Mid-Day Multimedia Ltd. All rights reserved