The death of 13 schoolchildren on March 4 in a accident between a school van and truck in Jalandhar district was caused by gross negligence,the Punjab Protection of Child rights Commission has said in its report. The victims four girls and nine boys were in the age group of 4 to 12 years.
The Commission has recommended prosecution proceedings under Section 15 of the Protection of Child Rights Act-2005 against the management of Akal Academy and its principal. It has been asked to pay Rs 5 lakh compensation to the families of each victim. Earlier,Akal Academy,which has over 100 branches,had announced a compensation of R 1 lakh each to the families of the deceased and Rs 50,000 each to the injured.
The mishap had occurred on the Jalandhar-Nakodar road when the van carrying students to Akal Academy in Boparai Kalan village collided with a brick-laden truck at Gohir village near Nakodar. The school had transferred principal Amandeep Kaur,who had then claimed that the school had nothing to do with the van.
Citing sections of the Right to Education Act,the Commissions report stated the management did not have requisite permissions even to open the school. The school,it added,tried to escape responsibility by arguing that the van was engaged by the parents directly.
The actual driver of the bus was on leave and his brother,who died on the spot,did not have a valid driving licence and training. He could have been under the influence of drugs, the report said while holding the district transport officer (DTO) liable for prosecution saying he was found wanting in performance of his duties as a public authority.
We have completed the inquiry and recommended prosecution proceedings against the school management,transporter and the DTO. Against the capacity of 13 to 14 children,the van was carrying nearly 23 schoolchildren,of which 13 died and 10 suffered serious injuries, Commission Chairman Swaran Salaria said.
Though the report was submitted in June,the state social welfare department is yet to take action on the Commissions recommendations. The file,according to sources in the department,is lying with the concerned deputy director. Despite repeated attempts,Principal Secretary (Social Welfare) Roshan Sarkaria was not available for comments.