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Cry for park on school ruins

Chennai, July 20: A pleasant patch of green — reminiscent of bright chirpy children — may replace the gutted, blackened ruins of the school in Kumbakonam, the tomb of 90 students.

The state government has cancelled the licence of the school — actually two within one compound — after Friday’s tragedy, and there is a chorus for a memorial park at the site. Among those behind the proposal is Tamil filmstar Vijayakant.

The Thanjavur district collector today said “several requests have come in this regard. We will collate them and refer it to the government for a final decision”.

On the other hand, police last night arrested seven persons. Among them are a tehsildar and a chartered engineer, who approved the cramped school building.

Anger over the fire seemed to be taking over as the shock subsides, with ominious black-bordered posters demanding that ‘Pulavar’ Palanichamy, the correspondent of the institution, “be hanged” appearing in Kumbakonam. Palanichamy and two others of the school managing board have been arrested.

The police have completed interrogation of the teachers, except two who are still underground. None of them has been arrested.

As the town struggles to come to grip with the tragedy, a BJP team arrived today to console the bereaved and announced a Rs 25-lakh compensation for the victims’ families.

Advani, accompanied by BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu and former Union minister S. Thirunavukkarasar, visited about 12 injured students recuperating at the government hospital.

The former deputy Prime Minister later visited the charred school building and placed a wreath. He also went to the houses of some of the victims to offer his condolences.

The BJP leader said it was the responsibility of “all of us” to ensure the safety and security of children in schools. As an inquiry commission has been set up, it would not be fair to go into the reasons of the tragedy and “fix responsibility on someone”.

Naidu announced the Rs 25-lakh cash relief for the victims’ families.

The state government has named Justice K. Sampath, a retired judge of Madras High Court, to head the inquiry commission.

Fire scare

Two hours before Advani arrived, the false ceiling of an operation theatre in Madras General Hospital in Chennai caught fire this morning, sparking panic. It was put out quickly.

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