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TN announces probe into school fire
July 19, 2004 21:17 IST
Last Updated: July 19, 2004 23:39 IST
The Tamil Nadu government on Monday formed an Inquiry Commission headed by a retired high court judge to probe the circumstances and causes that led to the fire in a school in Kumbakonam in which 90 children lost their lives.
It would go into all reform measures needed to ensure that such ghastly incidents did not recur.
The probe panel will be headed by a retired judge of the Madras high court and will have Secretary (School Education Ministry) as the convener. It would be assisted by a woman social worker with experience in education, an expert in fire safety and an eminent child psychologist.
She did not say who would head the panel, which will submit its report in four months.
Jayalalithaa said a survey of all schools, which have thatched roofs, would be completed by July 23. All schools, including unrecognized ones, which have classrooms with thatched roofs, would be enumerated and such roofs would be replaced with non-inflammable materials before July 30.
In addition, a state-level committee headed by the Director of School Education and others would undertake surprise random checks.
In order to alleviate the problem of congestion and prevent overcrowding in classrooms, a shift system would be permitted. Accordingly, children could attend schools in different batches to prevent over-crowding. Suitable time schedules would be worked out in consultation with Parent-Teachers Associations.
She ordered that all mid-day meal kitchen sheds having thatched roofs be immediately provided with non-inflammable roofs and directed a mandatory inspection by the Fire and Rescue Services Department undertaken in all schools. "It will be ensured that all schools have adequate provision for entry, exit and emergency exit."
One of the reasons cited for the high death toll in last week's school fire tragedy was that the exit in one of the affected places was too narrow.
The Fire and Rescue Services Department would organise a 'crash training course' for teachers on how to handle any fire emergency and also to undertake fire safety drills. The department would be provided with educational films in compact discs to educate the public on fire safety.
The education department, while according recognition and approvals, was required to go into all aspects to ensure proper functioning of schools, including the structural stability. "Officials have been directed to ensure strict observance of these mandatory provisions."
As of now, there was no provision for obtaining any licence or 'no objection certificate' by the schools from the fire service authorities.
"Such a provision will now be made mandatory," she said adding the government would take a 'very serious view' and punish those officials who were negligent in enforcing these provisions or show slackness in supervision.
Besides the school management, criminal action had been launched against the officials involved in granting various approvals, licences, certificates for recognition and negligence in supervision of the private aided schools in Kumbakonam where the tragedy occurred, she said.
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