Flouted SC guidelines on building safety and exits

Be it buses or buildings, schools and governments continue to breach the Supreme Court guidelines on safety of children often resulting in the death of innocent, like the incident that happened in a government school in Delhi on Thursday. 

Five girls died of suffocation and head injuries as they got caught in a rumour-engineered stampede in a government school in north-east Delhi. Chief minister Shiela Dikshit has ordered a high-level inquiry into the stampede. 

But, not only Delhi but other state governments as well appear to have paid scant regard to the apex court's April 13, 2009 judgment laying down guidelines for fire-safety measures in schools, which should have buildings that are safe for children. 

The tragedy at the Delhi school could have been avoided if the government had taken note of an SC judgment mandating implementation of the National Building Code of India (NBCI), 2005, that envisaged spacious entry and exits for safe evacuation of children during emergencies in schools. 

The guidelines came as the SC was apalled by lack of safety measures in government schools, a primary factor that had resulted in several accidents in the past -- the tragedies at schools in Kumbakonam and Dabwali where hundreds of children were killed in fires. 

If the flouting of SC's guidelines relating to safety of children in school buses had resulted in several tragedies in the past, many more are waiting to happen as the authorities have turned a blind eye to the 2009 ruling of the SC holding that students had a fundamental right to education in a "safe" building. 

"Majority of the schools do not have emergency exits," a Bench comprising Justices Dalveer Bhandari and L S Panta had said while giving the judgment on a PIL filed by one Avinash Mehrotra. 

While detailing the fire safety measures that needed to be installed in all schools, the SC had also given a fair stress on school buildings adhering to the National Building Code of India (NBCI), 2005. 

It had focused on wide staircases in schools. "The staircases, which act as exits or escape route shall adhere to the provisions specified in NBCI to ensure quick evacuation of children," it had said, adding, "The size of the main exit and classroom doors shall be enlarged if found inadequate." 

It had rested hope on the state governments, which showed enthusiasm and egged on the SC to issue directions. It had recorded: "States have also expressed enthusiasm for reforms and some have asked this court expressly for directions." It all stands belied right in the national Capital. 


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