Team from Union HRD Ministry reaches campus

The Union Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) has launched a probe into the circumstances that led to the death of a student of the National Institute of Technology, Calicut, (NIT-C), in a wall collapse recently.

Union Minister of State for Human Resource Development Shashi Tharoor had tweeted on February 18 that he had already “intervened on NIT-C campus tragedy. Ordered thorough enquiry, revoked expulsion of students from hostels and asked for compensation 2be [to be] explored.”

A team from the ministry reached the campus on Thursday to inquire into the death of Mannem Venkateswaralu, a physically challenged fourth-semester student from Guntur in Andhra Pradesh, after a wall caved in on him last Saturday.

The institute was closed indefinitely after a stormy session between the students and authorities on February 17 proved inconclusive.

Later the same night, students were ordered to vacate their hostel rooms the next day (February18) by 10 a.m. The sudden eviction had left many students, who hailed from other States, in dire straits.

When contacted on Thursday, V.K. Govindan, Academic Dean at NIT-C, said students were asked to vacate as there was no other way to “control” them. “That was the only way to diffuse the situation. They [the students] would cool down and come after some days,” said Mr. Govindan, who was the director-in-charge till February 19.

When asked about institute’s director M.N. Bandyopadhyay, Mr. Govindan said the director was in town, but was unavailable for comment.

Reason for wall collapse

When asked about the results of a preliminary inquiry into the reasons behind the wall collapse, Mr. Govindan said “the wall was not constructed properly. It was done 12 years ago and was only meant to practise tennis on. A tree was pushing it from one side.”

He said the institute had decided to give Rs.5 lakh as interim relief for Venkateswaralu’s family. The Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) would add another Rs.2 lakh. The victim’s family has sought Rs.68 lakh as compensation for his death.

The February 19 notice said the “actual compensation” for the student’s death would be worked out as per legalities in consultation with the institute’s Board of Governors and the ministry. The notice further said the Central Public Works Department had been entrusted with the conduct of a safety audit of the existing buildings on the campus.

But Mr. Govindan said there was no in-patient facility on the campus. The Kozhikode Government Medical College Hospital is 23 km away. The February 19 notice says that 24x7 ambulance has now been posted on the campus, and the upgrading of the existing hospital facility would be done in a time-bound manner.

Defending the lack of campus facilities, Mr. Govindan said the “ministry should give us funds and not accuse us. We are making the best use of funds given to us.”

He indicated that the institute might reopen on March 3.

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