‘Only’ one lifer for death of 94 kids
The founder of a school where 94 children were burnt alive in 2004 has been sentenced on Wednesday to life in prison by a court in Tamil Nadu.
Kumbakonam: The founder of a school where 94 children were burnt alive in 2004 has been sentenced on Wednesday to life in prison by a court in Tamil Nadu.
The court found 10 people guilty of charges ranging from criminal conspiracy to culpable homicide. Among them are several education officials and the owner of the school in Kumbakonam in Thanjavur district in the central part of the state. It acquitted 11 others, including three teachers and eight government officials.
The tragedy was one of the worst involving children in India. Those who died were all younger than nine. Kousalya, who was in class 3, survived. Eleven years later she says, "I often think I should have been the 95th child to die". Kousalya's right hand is scarred by burn injuries and she wants help to get advanced cosmetic surgery for it. She says she has spent all these years mocked by other children.
The parents of the children who died have protested against the acquittal of the 11 people. The mother of two children who died in the accident said, "This is not an acceptable decision. The government officials should not be allowed to go free."
The teachers acquitted today had been found guilty in an earlier investigation of abandoning nursery children after the fire began.
Parents expressed shock and disbelief at the acquittal of the 11 people in the case by a court in Thanjavur.
Speaking to a television channel, a mother who had lost two children in the accident, said: "This is not an acceptable decision. The government officials should not be allowed to go free."
"Justice delayed is justice denied. We have been waiting for 10 years for the judgment. Freeing the 11 accused is not acceptable. The government officials should be punished...," said another parent.
How the fire broke out
The incident took place on 16 July, 2004 at Sri Krishna Middle School around 10 am when the noon meal was being prepared in the school kitchen that had a thatched roof. The roof caught fire when a spark from the burning firewood fell on it and spread to the thatched roof of the classroom where several children were studying. Sri Krishna Aided Private School, Saraswathi Nursery and Primary School and the Sri Krishna Girls High School, all functioned in the same building where close to 700 students were studying. - The inferno, which raged for an hour, left bodies of the children burnt beyond recognition. By 11 am, firefighters and other authorities had started to break down the concrete structure because the only way in to the classroom was a single staircase