As briefed parents blamed the Hyderabad institution, vice-principal says such tours 'policy matters'
Shivani Chaturvedi | June 13, 2014
The maiden session of the Telangana assembly began on June 9. After a prolonged struggle for statehood, it was supposed to be an occasion to remember for the people of Hyderabad – as elsewhere in the country’s newest state. But a tragic note was sounded nearly 2,000 kilometres away the night before.
So as chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao and his cabinet colleagues assumed office in A, B, C and D blocks of Hyderabad Secretariat, which constitute the secretariat of the new state, life came to a stop barely two kilometres away. At the Alwal crematorium, grief-stricken family members, friends and relatives of Gampala Aishwarya attended Aishwarya’s last rites.
Aishwarya was among the two dozen students of VNR Vignana Jyothi Institute of Engineering and Technology in the city who were washed away in the Beas river in Himachal Pradesh’s Mandi district the evening before.
Underneath the grief is resentment against the institution. K Sangappa, grandfather of Arvind, one of the students still missing, said, “I will meet families of other missing students and together we will take legal action against the institute.”
Many other family members also criticised the attitude of the college authorities, saying the officials did not answer the phone or give them updates even half day since television channels began beaming the news. “We got all information through TV channels. Neither the college nor the state government are helping much to give us updates,” said Arvind’s mother, G Seshlatha. “We gave whatever fees the college asked for. We never questioned the college authorities. But they could not even take care of my child...”
Manoj Kumar and Vijay, third-year polytechnic students at the institute, said: “They went on a tour that was part of industrial training. For polytechnic students, trainings are held nearby; we don’t have to go a long distance on tour.”
This being in the middle of summer vacation, there few students and faculty members in the college, located on the outskirts of Hyderabad city. Refusing to be drawn into conversation, most faculty members stood in groups and interacted among themselves in hushed tones.
But there’s one question that’s palpable in even the overall silence: who exactly is, or are, accountable for the death of over 20 students? “There is nothing like accountability in this incident,” said C Kiranmai, vice-principal of VNR Vignana Jyothi Institute. The industrial tour, she said, is part of the curriculum and is pre-scheduled. Students from the college have been going on such tours since 1995.
A few other batches are also out on tour and have been asked to return after the Mandi mishap since their parents are worried, Kiranmai said. “We send second-year engineering students on industrial tour every year. We have a common tour organiser who arranges such trips. We survey the market before finalising tour organisers and try and get the best person,” she said.
“Such tours are policy matters and this lone incident should not be the reason to cut off tours in future.”
Established in 1995 by registered non-profit education society Vignana Jyothi, VNR Institute is recognised by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE). The institute is affiliated to Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University (JNTU), Hyderabad.
Prof Rameshwar Rao, vice-chancellor, JNTU, however, said it was “not” an industrial tour. “They went for picnic in that area. It was the fault of the (institute) management – they didn’t take enough precaution…. It was also lapse on part of people who released water from the dam.”
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