A year since the death of 8-year-old Sruthi, not much has changed to ensure safety of schoolchildren

A year since the death of eight-year-old S. Sruthi, not much has changed to ensure safety of schoolchildren, with several accidents involving vehicles owned or hired by schools continuing to occur.

Sruthi was a class II student at Zion Matriculation Higher Secondary School in Indira Nagar, Selaiyur. While returning home on July 25, 2012, she fell through a gaping hole in the floor of the school bus in which she was travelling and died.

A year later, her parents R. Sethumadhavan and Priya vividly remember every moment of that fateful day.

That day last year started out as usual for the couple and their daughter. “She would usually wake up at 6 a.m. That day she woke up an hour earlier. She specifically asked me to sing ‘kanney kalai maaney’ and ‘gori thera gaon bada pyaara,’ both songs sung by K.J. Yesudas, and I sang as she was lying on my lap. I then dropped her at the pick-up point for the school bus,” recalled Mr. Sethumadhavan, speaking at their residence in PTC Quarters in Varadharajapuram, near Tambaram.

.Her parents said they never felt Sruthi, fondly called ‘Maalu’ by neighbours, had left them. “We feel her presence all around. Though ours is a rented home, we will never leave this place,” Ms. Priya said, showing photographs they had taken of Sruthi’s artwork, displayed on the walls of their home.

Sruthi was extremely talented. She had started learning Bharatanatyam four years ago and won prizes at competitions organised in Tambaram. Her medals are now lined up beside her photograph.

‘We owe a lot to people’

Since the accident, people from far-flung places and totally unknown to the couple have been calling them, offering their prayers.

'“We owe a lot of gratitude to the society. Three months after Sruthi passed away, we spent sleepless nights. While I resumed my work and was able to focus, my wife took a longer time and it was our neighbours who helped her focus on other things,” said Mr. Sethumadhavan, a native of Ottapalam, Kerala. His wife is from Guruvayur.

The couple have an elder son, Pranav. “She would fight hard with her elder brother at home, but would come to his defence immediately if he got into a scuffle with his friends,” Mr. Sethumadhavan said.

Sruthi’s parents have made it clear they will not accept compensation in any form and all they want is for no other parent to suffer similar trauma.

Ón the first anniversary of Sruthi’s death, they have not planned any ceremony, say the couple. “We pray every day. We will be feeding inmates of two homes for the destitute, as we have been doing regularly during the past one year,” Mr. Sethumadhavan said.

The accident forced the State government to toughen the process of issuing fitness certificates to vehicles engaged in transporting schoolchildren. However, the effort did not pay full dividends as several schoolchildren have been killed or seriously injured in accidents in the city and its suburbs. On June 26, a class IX student, Deepak died when the private van he was travelling in toppled on Pallavaram-Thoraipakkam Radial Road. Six other children were injured.

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