Kumbakonam tragedy

Published : Aug 27, 2004 00:00 IST

The Cover Story ("Tragedy at school", August 13) gave us a graphic picture of the cruel commissions and omissions that led to the tragedy at a school in Kumbakonam.

The arrests and the compensation offered will not wipe the tears of parents who lost their children in the fire.

Dr. U.S. IyerBangalore

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The death of 93 primary schoolchildren could so easily have been averted, if only basic safety procedures and building regulations had been adhered to. The two long halls that served as classrooms can by no stretch of imagination pass off as a school where 870 children studied.

The education sector is among the most corrupt, with schools unfit even to be cattle-sheds getting licences. The tragedy has highlighted the need for schools to be safety conscious.

V. KrishnakumarNew Delhi

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Nothing can compensate the parents and relatives of the dead children. Failure to learn from previous experiences and adhere to rules, corruption, negligence and inexperience in risk and crisis management are among the reasons why the accident happened. The commercialisation of education has to be effectively confronted. Merely removing thatched roofs is not the solution. The government will have to start more primary schools, bring matriculation schools under the State Board, insist on primary classes in all middle and high schools, and ensure that schools adhere to safety norms and meet infrastructure requirements.

A. Jacob SahayamThiruvananthapuram

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It is good that the Tamil Nadu government has appointed a retired High Court Judge to inquire into all aspects of the tragedy. The commission will have the benefit of advice from experts in various disciplines in its onerous task.

There is, however, a glaring omission in the constitution of the expert body in that it has no known vigilance expert who can assist the judge in determining the culpability of the various players, especially those with deep pockets and political connections.

The Tamil Nadu government should publish the findings of the commission regardless of possible ramifications. No attempt should be made to consign it to the archives, which is what happens to most judicial findings.

Kangayam R. RangaswamyMadison, Wisconsin, U.S.

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The Cover Story and photograph are cruel reminders of the apathetic, callous administration, the irresponsible teachers and the greedy management that caused the death of 94 children.

If we see the larger picture behind this tragedy, the main reasons are over-population, the government's reluctance to increase expenditure on education, the increasing popularity of English medium "teaching shops" and corruption.

The real homage to the dead children will be to ensure that such tragedies do not recur. If we cannot save our children from fire, malnutrition, diseases and prostitution even after 57 years of independence, the future of the country will be bleak.

Akhil KumarDelhi

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All schools, private or public, should be declared charitable trusts and be governed by a board comprising parents, teachers and local business persons. It is time the citizens exercise direct control on the institutions that shape the future of their children.

Dr. SaravananNewcastle, U.K.

South Africa

In "Fractured society" (August 13), Bhaskar Ghose makes the sweeping statement that we can hope "... true healing will start" in South Africa. As a matter of fact, it started some time back with the sitting of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission headed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu; its discussions, report, and the actions initiated regarding reparations were curiously ignored by the author.

The government acknowledges that beyond political power, black people do not have much. The author should have indicated that the government is actively promoting (not coercively, though it has the wherewithal to do so) redistribution of economic power and also employment generation.

Raghuram EkambaramNew Delhi

Tribal trade

This is with reference to the article "Trade and a tradition" (July 30). It describes well the condition of tribal people in Andhra Pradesh and the rest of the country.

Rahul PadaviNandurbar, Maharashtra

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The author has presented well the role of the tribal people in Visakhapatnam district. There are such shandies in tribal areas of Gujarat and Rajasthan. However, no proper shelters have been given for these markets. Non-governmental organisations and cooperatives should come forward to organise these markets well. This may boost the income of the tribal people and also promote tourism.

Kamal MohamaniBaroda, Gujarat

Child labour

While we congratulate Frontline (July 16, 2004) for featuring an article on child labour with varied photographs, we register our protest against the inclusion of the photograph on page 97 with the caption: "A boy helps in the manufacture of firecrackers in Vijayakarisakulam village near Sivakasi, Tamil Nadu." The photograph is in no way connected with the article, which depicts the evils of child labour in various industries with a lot of authentication, statistics and sad stories but does not even mention the fireworks industry. The fireworks industry does not employ children in its factories although fireworks are illegally manufactured in houses in some villages in and around Sivakasi. The household production of fireworks is a live danger to the people of the villages. The publication of such file photographs mislead and create a misconception among readers about the fireworks industry.

S. RathinagiriSecretary, The Tamil Nadu Fireworks and Amorces Manufacturers' AssociationSivakasi, Tamil Nadu

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