Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Mar 25:
Thanks to the grit and determination of young lawyer and human rights activist Prabir Kumar Das, the East Coast Railway (ECoR) has finally decided to comply with the Odisha High Court order to pay compensation to the next of kin of 14 people who were mowed down by a running train at an unmanned level crossing in Khairpali near Sambalpur on August 24, 2012.
The ECoR has informed the High Court that it will be paying an amount of Rs 77, 44, 569/- towards compensation to the next of kin of the 14 deceased persons, five injured women as well as 6% interest for delayed payment to them.
Earlier, in December last year, the High Court had rejected ECoR’s petition seeking more time for compliance of the order.
This came about almost after almost 18 months of persistent efforts by the Das, known widely for his commitment to the rights of the poor and marginalized people, especially victims of systemic apathy and injustice.
On November 11, 2012, the Odisha High Court in response to a PIL filed by Das, had directed East Coast Railway ( ECOR ) to pay a compensation amount of Rs.5 lakh each to the next of kin of all the 14 victims, including 13 women as well as to five injured women and 6% interest on the compensation amount in case of delay.
The High Court had also directed directed the appropriate authorities- the Railway,Odisha government and the administration in the concerned districts- to act in right earnest in accomplishing the job of
building over-bridges, under-bridges and to eliminate all unmanned level crossings within six months to help save precious human lives and property.
The Court had further mentioned that priority should be given
to such projects without resorting to any kind of bureaucratic wrangling.
The High Court had also directed the Railway to post home-guards with red flags at all unmanned level crossings until the aforesaid projects were completed, installation of sign posts on both sides of the crossings in bold letters in the vernacular language,Hindi and English that are clearly readable from a distance.
The High Court had ordered the construction of rumbler strips with thermoplastic paints fitted with cat’s eye system on the approach road on either side and pruning of all bushes and trees that obstruct the view of the passers by.
In addition ECoR was also directed to go for a PR exercise through campaigns in villages near the level crossings about the dangers involved in careless crossing of rail tracks.
The High Court Registry had sent the copies of the judgment to the Chief Secretary,Principal Secretary,Home Department and Directror General of Police for information and necessary action.
The ECoR authorities have assured the High Court that remedial measures contained in the final judgment are being taken care of.
However, there is no clarity on the time frame for the implementation of these steps, Prabir Das said.
“ I will continue to fight until the ECoR and the state government put in place permanent measures to prevent such tragic and avoidable loss of human lives and property,” Das told OST.