Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Sept 18:
The court of Civil Judge (Senior Division), Bhubaneswar on Wednesday asked the Odisha government to pay compensation of Rs 25 lakh to each of the families of the seven students of Burla Engineering College, who were killed after they were swept away by the Mahanadi water released upstream by the Hirakud dam authoritiess, without prior warning, on January 30, 1998.
The Civil Judge Sangram Keshari Patnaik also directed the government to pay the compensation amount, along with 6 percent interest on it with effect from 2001, to these families.
With the order of the court, the family members of the deceased students have finally heaved a sigh of relief after 17 years.
It may be mentioned that eight students of Burla Engineering College had gone to the picturesque Mahanadi river bed near their college on the fateful day to take photographs.
While they were busy clicking pictures, the Hirakud dam authorities, without prior warning, released water from nine gates of the dam.
The helpless students had no chance as the roaring water gushed in at a height of 20-25 feet. Though the students managed to climb atop a 15-feet high rock inside the river bed, that was of little help as the water swept them away after submerging the rock.
While one of the students managed to swim ashore, his seven friends were gobbled up by the river
The bodies of the seven students- Binit Kumar Padhi, Himanshu Sekhar Pati, Kali Prasad Padhi, Sivashis Parida, Achyutananda Das, Malaya Kumar Das and Sabyasachi Patra—were recovered after four days of the incident.
The incident sparked off statewide uproar and the state government suspended a number of officials of the Hirakud Dam including the chief engineer.
The government had later ordered an RDC level inquiry into the incident. On the receipt of the 85-page report submitted by the then RDC, Hrusikesh Panda, the state government had provided compensation of Rs 3 lakh each to the family of the deceased students.
However, expressing resentment against the compensation provided by the state government, the disgruntled families later moved the Odisha High Court, which later directed the Civil Judge (Senior Division), Bhubaneswar to give a final judgment in the matter.
After going through the deposition of 77 witnesses and 31 affidavits, the Civil Judge ruled in favour of the families of the deceased students.