A local court has awarded a compensation of Rs. 25 lakh each to the families of seven students who drowned due to untimely discharge of water from a dam more than 16 years ago.
Bhubaneswar civil judge (senior division) Sangram Keshari Jena ordered in his 31-page judgment on Wednesday that the compensation has to be paid with a 6% interest effective from 2001, the year when the case was filed before the court, lawyer of the dead students’ families Madhu Madhab Jena, said on Thursday.
“The court gave the order after looking at various aspects of the case including the academic background of the students,” Jena said.
All the seven deceased were second year students of University College of Engineering, Burla in Sambalpur district – now renamed VSS University of Technology.
The tragic incident occurred on January 30, 1998 when eight students went into the dry riverbed of the Mahanadi River to take pictures for their college festival.
When the students were taking pictures, the Hirakud Dam authorities opened nine sluice gates to discharge water from the reservoir without sounding the warning alarm during non-monsoon season.
Seven of the students met their watery grave in the sudden surge of flood in the river while only one managed to save his life.
The state government had ordered a revenue divisional commissioner (RDC) level inquiry into the incident in 1998.
The report by the then Sambalpur RDC Hrushikesh Panda held the dam authorities responsible for the tragedy in the same year.
Panda said in his report that the dam authorities did not even intimate the district collector and superintendent of police before opening the sluice gates.
Based on Panda’s report, the state government had announced a compensation of Rs. 3 lakh each to the victims’ families in 1998. Considering the compensation amount inadequate, the families moved the Orissa high court.
In 2001, the high court directed the case to be taken up by a civil court since it was related to compensation.