Friday, March 5, 2010

Root Cause of Our Woes

The aftermath of the tragedy in pilgrim centres at different parts of the country witnesses blaming game as usual instead of learning from the disaster. Corrective actions are taken soon after the event but then we are not good at envisaging any other type of calamity that can strike religious places where people assemble in large numbers. It has therefore left numerous areas unattended and uncared. This hopeless situation leaves the people and the authorities to sit on the volcano. The administration has not woken up even after losing 800 lives in the past few years at various shrines due to stampede.

External audits should be conducted by competent persons at regular intervals which will help exploring all risk prone areas and thus paving way for preventive action.

This may cover areas such as maximum number of people in each floor/hall, number of exits, electrical safety, structural stability of the building, authenticity of persons for repair work, safety of persons working at heights, availability of fire- extinguishers and first aid kits, training records and so on.

The Government and other private organizations can seek help from experts in industry to upgrade and audit the system. Final inspection and audit can be carried out by Govt authorities at regular intervals. The success of the system depends on the genuineness of the auditors in highlighting the issues. Temples can form many teams, each comprising cross functional people who can address the issues honestly.

Each issue has to be resolved within the agreed period of time positively and closed without any scope of recurrence. Each team must be trained in focus areas like fire- fighting, first aid, mock drills, electrical safety, hygiene, prevention of accidents etc.

Unfortunately people do not realize the importance of mock drill to recall what they have learnt through training. Trouble in opening the extinguisher, wrong usage, delay in evacuating people in time, chaos, stampede, injuries due to panic, communication delay are seen when the disaster strikes. People fail to react properly on matters related to arrangement of ambulance, Fire brigade, Police and cordoning of the area to prevent the entry of unauthorized persons. Hence it becomes imperative to train people and audit the system for its effectiveness.

Regardless of the fact that the overall accountability of framing safety rules and implementation lies with the Government, one should not forget that the onus is also on the authorities who witness the reality on daily basis. The negligence in conforming with minimum safety standards must be severely dealt with.

The Media should also educate the viewers on safety instea of simply reporting the tragic events.

Since the channels make huge money out of advertisements, they can also realize social responsibility vested on them. They can make surveys of the places where the infrastructure is poor and accident prone and bring it to the attention of the authorities. Contribution from the media in cash or kind is the need of the hour.

What disturbs us most is the reaction of the politicians who want to make benefit even at the hour of crisis and grab credit as if they are the ones to take care.

Relief of any amount can never compensate the lives of those innocent people..

Nevertheless, the compensation should be viewed as a consolation to those who have lost their dear children and not a subject to debate its adequacy. Apart from Government and the opposition parties, people from popular fields like cinema, Sports and industry can lend helping hand at the hour of distress. There is no point in expecting the Government to do things entirely when others are simply watching.

During my visit to Varanasi I travelled by an autorickshaw to see Kasi Maharaja’s palace,which was situated on the other side of Ganges. The river was in full flow and the driver suddenly swung to his left to take a make shift bridge ,constructed of empty barrels and bamboo sticks. The bridge was oscillating due to the load of the vehicle. I wondered how the local administration gave permission to take such a risk across the mighty river.

The root cause of our woes must be fully understood and analysed in depth. The cause and effect of each issue has to be resolved within a time bound framework to gear up the System, ready to face any calamity. How many people are aware of evacuation Procedures even though they face natural disasters every year? They simply wait until the help comes from the Government. This is a disturbing trend, which may result into the loss of innumerable lives when they are caught unawares. Carelessness, negligence, corruption, selfishness, non-implementation of safety rules, absence of regular audits are some of the causes for the disasters that are to be addressed urgently.