Less than 24 hours after the tragic death of Logeshwari, a 19-year-old student who was forced to jump off a sun roof as part of disaster management training at college, several questions remain unanswered. What is the procedure to conduct such a training? What was the training based on?
The visuals of the incident from the college showed a reluctant student being pushed by the trainer. The trainer was seen with a rope harness in hand which was neither tethered to the student nor the trainer as is normally witnessed during such trainings.
Speaking to TNM, retired NCC major and former principal of New College Chennai, Dr Zahid Hussain says, âThis is a very serious matter. In disaster management, at the National Institute of of Disaster Management we are told to take precautions at any cost, especially with young cadets. We are commissioned NCC officers by the Ministry of Defence, Government of India. Even we are not forced at any cost. It is a voluntary organisation. No student can be forced. If witnesses say the girl was reluctant to jump, the trainer should be taken to task. This is someoneâs life.â
Since heavy rains lashed Coimbatore the night before the incident, the question also remains why the training was allowed to be conducted as planned. Zahid Hussain says, âWhenever there is a slightest iota of doubt, if it is raining and it is slippery or there is slush, the authorities have all the power to postpone. If there is sunshine the next day, they will go and check the building and see if it is slippery. It is impossible for the authorities to make it compulsory. Immediately an explanation should be called from the trainer.â
According to an event press release put out by the college, the training was conducted by the National Service Scheme, a voluntary association of college students sponsored by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports. However, investigating authorities told TNM on Thursday that a group from Chennai had conducted the training and NSS has denied they conducted such a drill.
When quizzed about the procedure followed for the training, Regional Director of the NSS Samuel Chelliah said, âWe have certain guidelines. Normally, these disaster management practices are taken up only with trained agencies, either through fire service personnel or disaster risk reduction personnel. I donât know what happened.â
While the Regional Director had sought a report from the program coordinators, he concedes that the NSS manual does not deal specifically with safety procedures during disaster management as this was a ânew topic.â
âWe have given small pamphlets from different agencies and we will circulate to the different volunteers,â he says.
When asked what handbook was used for the training, he said, âNormally we have the disaster management guidelines. Whenever disaster preparedness or disaster management trainings are undertaken, before the commencement of the program, the students will be given orientation- whether it is a fire disaster or a natural disaster, whatever it may be. Normally it is done by the Fire and Rescue Department personnel only. Here we donât know who has done it. We donât know what guidelines these people followed."