Waiting to cross National Highway-77 to get home after their school closed on Saturday afternoon, nine schoolchildren died after a speeding vehicle hit them at Minapur, in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district. About a dozen other students were reportedly injured, and are being treated at Muzaffarpur’s Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital. The errant driver fled the scene immediately, police said.
The government middle school is barely 50 metres from NH-77 at Dharampur village in the district, and parents and local students have been demanding its relocation for a long time now. Protesting parents and local residents blocked traffic on the stretch for several hours after Saturday’s accident.
Mohammed Ishaq, a marginal farmer who lost his daughter and son in the accident, said, “We have been demanding the school’s relocation for a long time now. The school is barely 50 metres from the highway, and students have to cross it every day to reach the school… Teachers help them cross the highway, but today…”
Other residents said given the school’s location, this was a tragedy waiting to occur. Six girls and three boys died in the mishap — on the spot or on way to a local hospital. All of them were children of either daily wage workers or marginal farmers. The Muzaffarpur district administration has ordered an inquiry.
According to local residents and guardians, the accident took place around 1.30 pm when school got over and students were standing in a line to cross the highway to get to their homes in Dharampur village on the other side. A truck coming from Muzaffarpur and going towards Sitamarhi first hit and injured a woman. The driver of a speeding Mahindra Bolero vehicle, coming from the opposite direction, lost balance, probably to avoid running over the injured woman and hit the schoolchildren.
Mohammed Samad, who lost daughter Shahjehan Khatoon, 10, said: “She was very bright and good at studies. I could not afford to send her to a private school.” “We have ordered an inquiry to know the reasons behind the accident, and whether there was any negligence on part of the teachers,” District Magistrate Dharmendra Singh said.