TN fire: Onus on callous authorities

THIS refers to your most timely editorial “Children are not for burning” (July 19). The Kumbakonam incident which claimed the lives of 90 students has exposed the monumental lack of safety consciousness for the educational institutions all over the country. Most schools do not have even very basic fire-fighting measures in place. There are also hardly any training inputs available for making the staff aware of how to react to such accidents.

NGOs must, in close coordination with the resident welfare associations, police, fire station and education officials, galvanise as strong teams to inspect all aspects of deficiencies of appropriate infrastructure, facilities, training and disaster control measures in the schools. They should also consult various fire and safety experts in their respective areas and initiate talks with the school managements on how to make these safer for students.

Inter alia the committees should study the construction layouts, normal and emergency entry and exit points and doors, the system of swift opening of the same in the event of any eventuality, the existing strength of the minimal mandatory fire extinguishers and system supports, their validity and refilling schedules, availability of the underground and overhead water tanks, number of fire hydrants, hose pipes for making these usable at distant locations, emergency exits at the staircases and out of lifts, system supports for controlling power supply in the event of a fire, first aid systems, ambulance besides the training resources for the school staff.

The committees should also ask the education department to go for a thorough inspection of all the schools and help implement the minimal standards of safety for the children.





It is unfortunate that most of the blame for Kumbakonam’s avoidable tragedy is being put on the hapless teachers. Though the teachers, once after running out of the frightening inferno, should at least have tried to arrange for help for the trapped children, painting them as sole villains is uncalled for. Since majority of all such schools appoint untrained teachers for obvious reasons, it would be asking for the moon to think of them as “trained life saviours” in such extraordinary situations.

Moreover, it must be remembered that even some of those parents who could luckily escape unscathed from the unfortunate Dhabwali fire tragedy in December 1995 could not save their own children/spouses from the burning death trap. Even the Deputy Commissioner, who was the chief guest there, ran for his life and did not return to the site.

The only culprit in this regard is the callous administration, (the management, district educational officers and other top officers) that permits such institutions to run. And I doubt if any of them will ever be hauled up for this. But will they ever be hauled up for their unpardonable negligence? The only ones who probably would face the noose seem to be the teachers.

BALVINDER, Principal, Govt College for Boys, Sector 11, Chandigarh


It was one of the most dreadful incidents that I have ever come across as a student. I was really pained to see the painful death of 90 innocent school children for no fault of theirs. It was due to the carelessness of the school authorities that this incident occurred. Neither they had proper security arrangements nor they were alert. The school did not even have fire extinguishers.

I was shocked to read that the teachers ran away like cowards leaving the tiny tots to their ungrateful fate. How could they do this? Had their own children been caught in that fire, they would have rushed to rescue them. Did they ever think that their salary comes from the fees of these children? I thought that the teachers follow what they say. They should have set a personal example for others.

Afraid of being caught or being blamed, the school Principal too ran away. Now, this is a limit. He should have visited the injured children. Such people should not be spared. This is a wake up call for the other schools. They should take precautions for the safety of their students against all contingencies.

Aniket Singh, Army School, Ambala Cantt


Apropos of your editorials “Children aren’t for burning” and “Teachers’ betrayal” (July 19), the gruesome fire incident at a Kumbakonam school is a grim warning to all the schools in the country. Sadly, most established schools do not have fire fighting equipment. Incidents like the one at Kumbakonam do make the administration conscious for some time, but with the passage of time, it will be business as usual.

The administration is at fault and is guilty of negligence. The teachers too have committed heinous crime by ignoring the children.

Dr ARUP K GAKKAR, Jalandhar


Learning from the Kumbakonam tragedy, the system of cooking mid-day meals everyday at schools should be terminated immediately. Mid-day meals should certainly continue but these should be prepared outside the school by self-help groups of women from weaker sections. They should prepare nutritious dry food with a shelf-life of about a week. These dry nutritious foods should be given twice every day to children.


Holiday for vehicles

Declaring a holiday for all state vehicles in Shimla on Mondays is a good idea. It is heartening to see some officers walking to and from their office. Some seniors have also followed suit. Shimla, being a trekker’s or walker’s paradise, the exercise is useful in more than one way. It saves petrol and congestion on the road in addition to improving the health of the person concerned.

Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh is reported to have moved to his office here recently in his personal vehicle. His numerous commitments and security considerations may not be permitting him the luxury of a free walk. However, if he is able to set an example in jogging, many people will emulate him.

History has it that sometimes Maharaja Ranjit Singh and George Washington used to walk to have a feel of the pulse of the people.

K.L. NOATAY, Shimla


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