Lack of Ownership in Decision making leads to Tragedy like Khajuri Khas

Remember the stampede in a girl’s school in Khajuri Khas last year, which resulted in death of 5 girls and at least 35 with serious injuries. Well the enquiry report is out which mainly points to lack of planning and timely interventions, being the main reasons behind the tragic incident. At the time there were reports that eve-teasing / molestation by some boys caused a panic among girls causing stampede. While the report has not ruled out this possibility, it has also raised issues what caused it and how simple planning measures could have prevented the same.

In Khajuri Khas, there are different shifts for boys & girls in the same school building. However the authorities decided to conduct common exam for the students of the two shifts. Students generally took the exam in the open ground, however due to heavy rains, the students congregated in the building. Since it was raining, the roofs were leaking and verandahs flooded. Insufficient lighting added to the chaotic situation. Teachers were unable to provide sitting arrangement resulting in a predictable melee. In such a situation, the report observes, that it is very much possible that some boys not only misbehaved, but might have molested some girls, causing panic and the stampede. Thus all this combined with a badly designed staircase caused the stampede resulting in unfortunate loss of life.

Report raises some vital & key issues

  • Why the two schools that too of boys & girls who are not used to interacting with each other were made to assemble at one place? Why the district education authorities made this happen?
  • Did anyone assess the sitting capacity in the school building before making such arrangements?
  • When it had been raining overnight why the students of two school were allowed to assemble?
  • Even at the late stage when children had assembled, and realizing the lack of sitting capacity why the exam could not be postponed?
  • Electric and other maintenance are the responsibility of DSIIDC. Is changing of bulbs or some minor electric repairs by such a centralized agency the most effective /efficient way?

Answers to most such questions are also the pointers to lack of ownership among school authorities, who are the best judge of the situation that they are facing and not a district officer, who is far removed from the situation.  Since the decision-making is centralized at the district level, school authorities consider that their task is only to inform the relevant officer at the district. The district officer’s phone was switched off at the time of incident and hence no decision could be taken by the school authorities.

The report’s findings provide ample evidence of how decentralization of decision-making, better planning and timely intervention could have avoided a tragic incident.


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