More Questions than Answers…

Dr R Neerunjun Gopee

“The carry-home lesson is that many accidents and incidents are preventable by means and measures that are not necessarily of the rocket science type, and it would serve the country and its people well to keep this in mind as we go about searching for causes and clues in the aftermath of the horrifying and sad ‘soy’ period that we have tragically had to go through in such a short space of time…”

Two events, at about a month apart almost to the date, have sent us all into a state of shocked incomprehension. The memory and rumblings about the cloudburst over Port Louis, that became flash floods, which took away eleven lives, were barely over than we had to bear with yet another devastation. The light went out of a further ten lives within moments when the ill-fated Blueline bus turned into a gobbling monster as its occupants were crushed in the tangled mass of metal that it became.

Our salutations must go to the brave driver who gave a warning and tried his best to minimize the loss of lives and prevent more accidents by his prompt decision to swerve to the left of the highway. No one can even begin to imagine the panic and sorrow that must have gripped those people who must have felt, even known perhaps, that they were face to face with certain death and had absolutely no means of escape or of averting it.

Several opinions from all sections of society have been heard since, and teams of local and foreign experts are busy pondering over the causes of the events. It will no doubt be some time before any definitive conclusions are arrived at and recommendations made. What is clear, though, is that many of the causes which led to these incidents and their outcomes, especially in terms of lives lost, were preventable.

Simple common sense and a willingness to listen to those on the ground supported by standard operating procedures closely monitored, and a culture of resolute ‘no’ to interferences of the unwanted kind with expert inputs as and when on an institutional rather than a reactive basis, are the elements of an ongoing prevention programme whatever be the sector we deal with.

Of course, even with all this in place, no system can ever guarantee 100% safety – there is still the possibility of system failure or external factors (the piece of flying metal on the runway that caused the tank of the Concorde to burst in flames as it lifted off in Paris some years ago), and of human error too (the Air France flight over the Atlantic for example), but at least everybody could rest assured that everything known and possible was being done to beef up security. The preparedness and sang-froid of the pilot saved all the passengers of an aircraft which was made to belly-land on the Hudson river in New York a couple of years ago.

The carry-home lesson is that many accidents and incidents are preventable by means and measures that are not necessarily of the rocket science type, and it would serve the country and its people well to keep this in mind as we go about searching for causes and clues in the aftermath of the horrifying and sad ‘soy’ period that we have tragically had to go through in such a short space of time.

May those who have lost their loved ones find the grace and the courage to face their future with hope nevertheless, for the unforgiving reality is that life must somehow go on.

* * *

Even more incomprehension…

While there are many genuine events that result in enormous material damage and unintentional loss of lives (such as earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis: in other words, major geological catastrophes), there are yet others where human greed, vanity, hate and arrogance and violent impulse are directly responsible for the harm being caused to so many people around the world.

The most glaring example of ongoing massacre currently is that taking place in Syria, where already about 75,000 people are estimated to have died, and nearly a million are now refugees fleeing for their lives and living in dire, precarious conditions. At this rate, Syria may soon become the Cambodia of the 21st century, its leader a latter-day Pol Pot (who exterminated almost two million of his compatriots). Rwanda in its dark times did not fare much better.

From Nigeria are coming almost daily reports of civilians by the dozens being killed in indigenous terrorist attacks fuelled by religious extremism. The Pakistan elections have been marred so far by a number of people being killed in similarly motivated attacks, and again a religiously-motivated riot in the Bangladeshi capital has resulted in a number of deaths too. This took place even as the country was trying to cope with the collapse of a textile factory where thousands of workers were toiling, and the tally to date is of at least 800 people dead, 800 innocent human beings whose only fault was that they were earning a living for their families.

Yesterday it was announced that, following this incident, 22 factories in Bangladesh have now been ordered to close. It may be noted that on the day before the collapse of the building, some workers had drawn the attention of the owners about cracks present in the building, who disregarded that claim and insisted that the workers get on with their jobs, with the results that we now know.

About two months ago, a shoddily built building in Mumbai came crashing down, with the loss of many lives. It turned out that the multi-storey structure was put up in record time, that municipal or local councillors/officials had taken bribes to allow flouting of building norms, and that poor/inadequate amounts of material were used in the construction.

In the US, gun-toting maniacs go on a havoc every so often, shooting to death school children, previous colleagues they have worked with, students on university campuses and so on.

At the cost of being cynical, one cannot help wondering whether every country has its favourite mode of killing – but killing it must! And breed all manner of perverts, raping being a favourite mode in India and on an ascendancy since the brutal rape and death of a 23-year old paramedical girl student in New Delhi.

In the US again, CNN is dissecting the case of the three young women in Cleveland, Ohio, who were kidnapped within a year and sequestrated for nearly ten years in chains in a house located within a few miles of their own houses. The culprits are a   driver and his two brothers who are now in custody.

If the world were to end tomorrow, should we really have any regret!!


* Published in print edition on 10 May 2013

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