Demand for probe into death of a physically challenged student of the institute

Beyond the imposing main gate of the sprawling campus of the National Institute of Technology, Calicut, (NIT-C), hundreds of students dressed in black tee shirts and arm-bands crowded the exit points of the institute director’s office on Monday.

They were seeking the truth behind the death of Mannam Venkateshwaralu, their physically challenged college mate, who died on Saturday, February 15. Nineteen-year- old Computer Science student Venkateshwaralu died after a wall on the campus collapsed on him.

But all that the students got from the authorities were scattered phrases of comfort and indefinite promises of a safer campus.

The evening’s exchange in the presence of institute Director M.N. Bandhopadhyay was meant to openly discuss a five-point agenda raised by the students. The agenda prepared by the Student Action Council included demands like fixing the compensation amount to be offered to the parents of Venkateshwaralu, tendering contract for a fully functional medical facility on the institute premises, setting up an empowered internal committee for survey and regulation of civil structures of NIT-C, a full-scale probe into the tragic incident, and finally to facilitate a forum every month in which students could raise grievances to the institute director and deans.

Earlier in the day, friends of Venkateshwaralu saw off his parents, who came to take his body back to their native in Guntur in Andhra Pradesh after post-mortem at the Kozhikode government medical college hospital. In a letter addressed to the director, the victim’s family sought Rs.68 lakh as compensation.

Following loud protests from students, the authorities agreed to form a panel to propose a compensation amount for the consideration of the institute’s Board of Governors. However, authorities refused to commit on a specific date for finalising the compensation amount.

When contacted at 9.30 p.m., students said they were asked to leave the premises by the police. They said they would be meeting the authorities on Tuesday morning.

Notice from registrar

The Registrar, NIT-C, has issued a notice that the institute will be closed indefinitely in view of the “unauthorised assembly” of students on the campus on February 15 and 17. The notice directed the students to vacate their hostel rooms by 10 a.m. on February 18. “Any individual presence in the institute’s hostels will be considered as trespass and suitable action will be taken against him or her,” it said.

The decision, it said, was taken after a meeting with deans, board of governors and heads of departments at the director’s office on the advice of the police.

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