Cuttack, Nov. 20: Orissa High Court today awarded Rs 5 lakh as compensation to the parents of each of the seven children who died when a wall collapsed at an anganwadi centre in Nayagarh district on July 9.
Describing it as a “shocking incident”, the division bench of Chief Justice V. Gopala Gowda and Justice B.N. Mohapatra directed the state government to pay the compensation within a period of one month.
If the government failed to pay the amount within the deadline, it would have to pay an interest of six per cent a year till it made the payment, the court said.
The tragedy had occurred at Nelia Upper Primary School at Suansia Sahi under Ranpur block in Nayagarh when the children were eating.
The court awarded the compensation after the Nayagarh collector admitted in an affidavit that the anganwadi centre concerned was functioning out of an old and dilapidated part of the school building for the past two years.
Expressing concern, the court directed the state “to take adequate safety measures so that no child dies or suffers injuries in any incident like the present one”. It also asked the state government “to take proper action against the functionaries involved in the shocking incident in accordance with law” and also “to bear all medical expenses of all the injured children”.
Human rights activist advocate Prabir Kumar Das and Cuttack-based legal advocacy group, Committee for Legal Aid to Poor, had filed the PILs seeking compensation for the families of each of the dead children.
In his reply, Nayagarh collector Saroj Kanta Choudhury said that the school headmistress had not allowed the two anganwadi centres at Suansia Sahi and Kadamba Sahi to function either in the “formal school building” nor “in the verandah”.
“So under duress, the anganwadi centres were functioning in the corridor of the old dilapidated building and the cooking took place in the room, the wall of which collapsed,” Choudhury said.
The court clarified that the Rs 5 lakh compensation would be paid after deducting the interim compensation for which it had directed earlier.
On September 4, the high court had directed the state government to pay an interim compensation of Rs one lakh to the parents of each of the seven deceased children.