Almost 18 years after the Dabwali fire tragedy, 494 victims are still struggling to get full compensation from the management of DAV Public School.
On December 23, 1995, 442 people, including more than 200 children, had died and 150 were injured in a fire that broke out due to short circuit in an electric generator at Rajiv Marriage Palace, the venue of the school’s annual prize distribution function, in Mandi Dabwali (Sirsa).
But only 494 applications seeking compensation were filed before the retired justice TP Garg commission, appointed on the Punjab and Haryana high court directions issued in January 2003. This included 406 death cases and 88 injury cases.
As per the court orders issued in November 2009, the Haryana government had to pay 45% and DAV management 55% of the total compensation amount, decided at around Rs. 34.14 crore plus interest. However, the victims claim that the DAV management has been shirking its responsibility of paying Rs. 4.29 crore from its share.
Dabwali Fire Victims’ Association secretary Vinod Bansal said, “Ultimately, we were forced to file a petition in the Dabwali court against the management, seeking the remaining compensation of Rs. 4.29 crore, which it had failed to pay as per 10% interest for the period lapsed since June 2003 till date.”
Till date, the management has deposited Rs. 27 crore in two instalments (Rs 10 crore in March 2010 and Rs. 17 crore in March 2013) in the Dabwali court, and that too after the Supreme Court’s directions.
On the petition filed by the association, the high court, in its order dated November 9, 2009, had directed that of the Rs. 34.14 crore compensation, 45% would be paid by the state and 55% by the DAV management within four years with 6% interest since June 2003. It was ordered that after four years of delay, the parties would pay 10% interest to the victims.
Though the state government paid around Rs. 21.26-crore compensation within four years, but the management chose to move the Supreme Court, challenging the high court’s order on the ground that the compensation decided was too high.
The Supreme Court, in its order dated March 15, 2010, directed the management to deposit Rs. 10 crore in the Dabwali court, which would further disburse claims to victims, and only then its petition would be heard. The management deposited the amount as per the directions. However, on January 23, 2013, the Supreme Court, while upholding the high court’s directions, dismissed the management’s petition. It was then that the management deposited Rs. 17 crore more in the Dabwali court on March 9, 2013, which is in the process of distribution.
The association has filed a petition in the Dabwali court, seeking directions to the DAV management to pay Rs. 4.29 crore at the rate of 10% interest on the compensation amount decided by the high court. The next date of hearing in the case is July 26.
However, Mohan Lal, vice-president of the DAV managing committee, New Delhi, says: “We have deposited the entire amount in the Dabwali court as per 6% interest, whereas victims are claiming interest as per 10% interest, which is wrong. We are defending our case in the Dabwali court.”
Lal added that the DAV managing committee had also filed a petition in the Dabwali court in May, seeking directions to the tent palace, where the incident happened, to pay 50% of the amount deposited by the DAV management in the court till date as the palace was equally responsible for the accident.
Anmol Parihar, 21, who was a nursery student in 1995, suffered 64% disability in the incident. She lost her mother and elder brother, who died on the spot because of burns. “Till date, our family has received a total of Rs. 11 lakh as compensation, including the death claims of my mother and brother. The money was provided three years ago. We are still struggling to get the second instalment,” said Parihar.
Another survivor, Suman Kaushal, 28, who is 100% disabled and has undergone 40 surgeries till date, has not been able to live a normal life. “I was in Class 5 at that time. I have done BEd now and cleared the state teachers’ eligibility test, but I am still struggling to get a job. Also, my marriage prospects have been shattered because of my disfigurement,” Kaushal said. She has got Rs. 36 lakh compensation till date, but the remaining interest amount is yet to be decided by the court.