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High time State authorities woke up, says Dayanidhi Maran

By Our Special Correspondent

CHENNAI, JULY 17. The Union Information and Technology and Telecommunications Minister, Dayanaidhi Maran, today said the State Government should inspect all schools and marriage halls to ensure stricter enforcement of safety laws.

"The State authorities should wake up...and ensure that all schools have proper safety measures...This incident (Kumbakonam school blaze) happens after seven months of the Srirangam tragedy, where so many people died in a marriage hall. They should have woken up. The problem is that everyone talks about this for 10 days — `we need to do something' — and then we all go back to our jobs," he said. The mandated fire safety requirements should not be compromised while permitting buildings which served as a meeting place for 100 or more people.

Talking to presspersons at the DMK headquarters here, Mr. Maran said he did not think that the State Government required any Central assistance to handle the situation. "What we need is enforcement of the laws. I had a look at the school building. It is located on one or one-and-a-half grounds. I was surprised to see there were three schools operating in such a small area."

Describing Friday's fire tragedy as the worst in recent history, Mr. Maran said he had telephonically conveyed the enormity of the accident to the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh. "The Prime Minister has conveyed to me that he would write personally to all Chief Ministers to conduct a detailed review of educational institutions and highrise buildings and ensure that such human catastrophe does not recur", Mr. Maran told reporters earlier at the Chennai airport on his return from Kumbakonam.

Mr.Maran said he would also submit a report to the Prime Minister to facilitate the tabling of details in Parliament.

Mr. Maran said he had no answers to the questions the parents of the deceased children posed, amid their wails. "As a parent I can only share their grief. It's so shocking."

Asked whether the accident again exposed the inadequacy of the Fire Service department, he said prevention was better than cure. "They have to ensure that the specifications are maintained. This school has violated everything. This is not the only school in the State. There are many other schools similar to this, which are disasters waiting to happen."

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