Ex gratia of ₹5 lakh to family of girl who died after being forced to walk home
The Orissa high court has asked the state government to pay ₹5 lakh as compensation to the family of a 7-year-old tribal girl who died after being forced to walk back home.
The decision comes eleven years after the tribal girl staying in a state-run hostel of Kandamal district died after she was asked to walk back home despite her being unwell.
The division bench of chief justice S Murlidhar and justice RK Patnaik asked the state government to pay ₹5 lakh to Bichhanda Mallick, a farmer of Ginaninda village under Khajuripada block of Kandhamal district within next 8 weeks as compensation for the death of his daughter Jasmin Mallick.
Mallick’s lawyer and human rights activist Prabir Kumar Das said on the night of 21 April 2011, Jasmin staying in the sevashram hostel of Bilabadi grampamchayat ran high fever. Instead of taking her to a nearby health centre the next day, head warden Brahmakumar Behera asked her to walk back to her village Ginaninda, 5 km from the hostel along with 4 minor girls.
"The death of Jasmin in the above circumstances was an avoidable one. There was a culpable failure on the part of the authorities in charge of the Sevashram in failing to put in place adequate measures to take care of medical emergencies like the one in which Jasmin found herself and for which she got no assistance whatsoever.
"The report of the District Welfare Officer leaves no manner of doubt that the Head Sevak sent an ailing 7-year old girl child back home in the company of four other young girl children, unaccompanied by an adult. It reflects poorly on the local administration that the responsibility for entire Sevashram with 140 inmates was left on a holiday to just one head warden with no teacher present and no medical facilities available to deal with emergencies," the HC said.
The bench further said while it is imaginable that the warden was in a quandary having to choose between accompanying the girl for treatment and staying back to look after the 140 odd inmates of the Sevashram, the responsibility for the sorry state of affairs must rest primarily on the state through its local administration as the hostel facility functioned under the ST & SC Development department.
"No matter where a family seeks to educate its children, the State must ensure that children suffer no harm in exercising their fundamental right and civic duty. States thus bear the additional burden of regulation, ensuring that schools provide safe facilities as part of a compulsory education," the HC bench said.
“Jasmin died on the road and later her body was taken to her home in a passer-by vehicle. After her death, the district social welfare officer inquired into the case and found the school headmaster was at fault. However, the district administration announced a compensation of ₹50,000. A year later, her father Bichhanda filed a case in High Court,” said local sarpanch Mrutyunjay Kanhar.
Bichhanda, who is a marginal farmer, could not be contacted as there is no mobile network in his village.
The sevashram schools are state-run residential schools that provide up to secondary education to tribal boys and girls.
These hostels were however mired in controversies with cases of tribal girls in the hostel committing suicide to delivering babies. In 2016, one such hostel in Kalahandi district was found to have a tantrik treating the ailing students.
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