Observing that the State is under the obligation to ensure compliance of environmental norms for the safety of citizens, the National Green Tribunal on Tuesday directed the Ludhiana district magistrate to give Rs 20 lakh each to the families of the 11 people who died allegedly after inhaling toxic gas in the Punjab city.
The deceased included three children and they died after allegedly inhaling toxic gas in the city’s thickly populated Giaspura locality on Sunday, with high levels of hydrogen sulphide detected in the air and authorities suspecting that it emanated from a sewer.
Following the incident, the Ludhiana administration has announced Rs 2 lakh compensation each for the family of the deceased and Rs 50,000 each for those who were taken ill in the incident.
Initiating suo motu action based on media reports, a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice AK Goel constituted an eight-member fact-finding joint committee, which will be headed by the Punjab State Pollution Control Board’s chairperson.
“In the meanwhile, the district magistrate, Ludhiana, may ensure payment of compensation of Rs 20 lakh each to the heirs of 11 persons who have died, deducting the amounts, if any, already paid within one month,” the bench also comprising Justice Sudhir Agarwal and Expert Member Dr A Senthil Vel said.
“The committee may mention the details of persons who have died and persons injured with extent of injuries suffered by them. It may also recommend measures to be taken in future to prevent such incidents,” it said.
The NGT said the State has to pay compensation in absence of identified private operators with liberty to recover the same from persons found responsible.
“The State is under obligation to ensure compliance of environmental norms for safety of citizens,” the green panel said.
The eight-member committee will also comprise of Regional Director (North), Central Pollution Control Board; Industrial Toxicology Research Centre (ITRC), Lucknow; nominee of the director of PGI Chandigarh; nominee of the National Disaster Response Force; Punjab State Pollution Control Board; Ludhiana district magistrate; and Commissioner of the Ludhiana Municipal Corporation.
“State PCB will act as nodal agency for coordination and compliance. The committee may meet within one week from today and complete its task preferably within one month,” the NGT said.
“It will be free to interact with any other department, institution or individual and undertaking visit to concerned sites. The committee will be free to function online or offline as the situation may warrant. The committee may give its report to this tribunal on or before June 30,” it said.
The incident came to light on Sunday morning when some people, who had come to a grocery store in the Giaspura locality, fainted. Four died on the spot, while the others were rushed to a hospital.
The 11 deceased belonged to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Giaspura has a very high migrant population. Several industrial and residential buildings are located there.