Dabwali school tragedy: power cuts, steno delay report

April 2nd, 2008 - 11:15 am ICT by admin  

By Jaideep Sarin
Chandigarh, April 2 (IANS) Over 12 years after 442 children and parents were burnt to death at a school function in Haryana’s Dabwali town, the judicial report on the devastating fire, believe it or not, is being held up by power cuts and the lack of a competent steno-typist. Retired judge T.P. Garg, who heads the one-man commission going into one of the biggest school tragedies in the country, has sought and got a further extension of six months in his term after he cited power cuts and the lack of a stenographer and computer operator as reasons for his not completing the final report.

The report of the Garg commission will decide the quantum of compensation to the victims and their families.

Four hundred and forty-two people, a majority of them children, were burnt to death at the Rajiv Marriage Palace in Dabwali town on the Haryana-Punjab border, 350 km from here, Dec 23, 1995, during a school function of the local DAV School there.

The tent put up by the marriage palace - which had no permission to do so and flouted all fire safety norms - had caught fire and collapsed on over 1,000 people. The tragedy left 20 children disabled for life and 200 others with burn injuries.

Garg, who is conducting the probe into the tragedy from the district headquarters of Hissar in Haryana, 300 km from here, told the Punjab and Haryana High Court here last week that even the 370-page interim report on the tragedy had been held up due to power cuts and lack of staff.

Claiming that he had completed the report, the judge told the high court that power cuts - ranging from 8 to 10 hours daily - were not even allowing the computer printouts of his interim report to be taken out.

“Another constraint was that my steno-typist and computer operator both resigned on account of their getting government jobs and I had to recruit new incumbents,” Garg said in his communication to the high court seeking another extension.

New replacements have been found and appointed.

Garg told the high court that he and his staff were sitting till late evening and even working on holidays to complete the report.

Judge Garg’s committee was given its previous extension - the 12th in a row - on Oct 29 last year.

He had earlier put the blame for the delay in his probe on the Haryana government’s failure to arrange a government pleader to represent the case.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at jaideep.s@ians.in)

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