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Rs.20 Lacs compensation to the families of 2 girls found dead at Anganwadi Centre, ordered Orissa HC

The Orissa HC has ordered a compensation of Rs.10 Lacs each to the families of the two 4-year old girls who died because of drowning in a pit at an anganwadi centre. The deaths have been considered as a violation of fundamental right to life.

The bench of Justice S Muralidhar and Justice BP Routray said that the mishap was completely avoidable and would not have happened if safety measures, such as putting barricades around the excavated pit, were taken. The government has been ordered to pay the compensation within a month.

The bodies of Monalisa Naik, D/O Jambeswar Naik and Priyanka Das, D/O of Pitabas Das were found on Sept 7, 2012, in the 4.5 feet deep waterlogged pits in the anganwadi centre, excavated for the constructing more classrooms. The anganwadi centre operated within the premises of Tentulihata Project upper primary school under Banarpal Block of Angul district.

Consequently, the parents of the deceased approached the HC seeking action against the person liable and compensation.

It was observed by the HC that the photographs presented explicitly proves that the waterlogged pits were left unguarded and no due diligence was taken.

The Court said, “With there being no barricades, no warning boards or signs, there is no way the two young children would have known that there were water filled pits, of 4 ½ feet which they had to avoid stepping into. The lack of barricading of the pits or any warning sign appears to be the reason why they met with a tragic death. There can be no doubt therefore that there was gross negligence on the part of the school management and the district administration in not barricading these pits. There was a complete absence of any standard of care or even anticipation of the likely danger posed by an unguarded excavated pit 4 ½ feet of depth.”

It was observed that to provide early childhood care and education, the state must endeavour. Also, it must ensure a safe environment for those attending anganwadi. The court directed the Distric Collectors as well to ensure compliance with the guidelines of 2009, given by the Apex Court, which were issued after a 6 year old boy got stuck in a 60-feet deep borewell and was rescued by NDRF, in Kurukshetra, Haryana, to prevent such fatal accidents involving children.

- Malaika Kadam

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