Monday, September 06, 2010
One only has to pay a casual visit to India's commercial capital, the City of Mumbai, to see what disparity lies in this land of great diversity. You find skyscrapers built over slums and you find footpath dwellers soaking in non-stop rains, overlooking tall and imposing structures housing corporate Head Quarters. It is a harsh irony that hits you hard - when millions starve below poverty line, there are thousands who showcase their flamboyance. That's life - and life is in display in all its colours in India.
While not much can be done by the political class that is handicapped by its desperation to survive and by the systemic flaws that grace the society, there is good news - the Supreme Court has, time and again, proven to be one sensitive and sensible institution that doesn't flinch from muscling its prowess and converting political inertia into action. But for the interference from the Supreme Court that pronounced its "Order" over media remarks of food grains rotting in the open, directing the Government to distribute the grains to the poor rather than letting them being fed to rats, the Union Agriculture Minister, Sharad Pawar, would probably have been busy encashing his IPL links.
It is perplexing even to normal intelligence as to why it is that the Government hasn't provided for adequate storage of foodgrains, in a nation that prides on its agricultural produce. Have we been too busy laying highways and building IT parks to process outsourced orders, to earmark some resources to store the foodgrains that farmers struggle to produce? Would it be a sustainable system to have a section of the society reeling in exuberance while millions of poor go to sleep with stomach full of hunger? Is it fair for a Minister in-charge to label a Supreme Court directive as "impractical", when he has failed in his responsibility to make sure the hard-earned produce is at least, stored properly for distribution?
How is the order to be implemented? There are those who emphasise the impracticality of the solution, those who accuse the Court of playing the populist tune to the gallery. If the courts are to implement policy issues too, if courts are to chalk out plans of action as well, what are Governments there for? It's a question of putting the horse before the cart - deciding what needs to be done leads the way to the "How" part of the equation. We may never have a perfect solution - but there would be at least some headway in the right direction!
Life was never fair - nor would it ever be. It is only hope that would take us forward in this struggle to mitigate the relentless disparity between the towering surplus and the abysmal deficit - hope, that such few institutions as the Apex Court, have enough teeth to have its say over rotting foodgrains, and push the rotten system into action.
Sunday, May 23, 2010
So, it has happened again. It is natural, it cannot be predicted, it can never be prevented, and it just happens. Accidents are just those things – accidents, nothing more, nothing less. And it is humanly impossible to stop accidents from happening, when people are doomed to die, tied to their fates and find themselves in the wrong places at the wrong time.
That’s why such accidents as the one involving Air India Express Flight IX-812, where all fingers seem to point out towards the Pilot who overshot the runway by about 2000 feet, is almost deemed to be at par with a natural disaster, with no one else to blame at all. Could it be that there can be no one to blame in such a fatal crash that consumed 159 lives? The Civil Aviation Minister, Mr Praful Patel, is prompt to point out that there have been innumerable flights landing and taking off from the same airport at Mangalore. Does that make it just another accident, a bad twist of fate?
In such a simplistic view of an accident as an isolated incident, the role of the system is forgotten – and conveniently ignored. A mistake is a symptom, an indication of something bigger that needs to be fixed in the system. In a country like India where contingencies, off-hand approaches and impromptu actions in accordance with lobbying and political wish lists take precedence over strict adherence to systems and standards, an accident stays in the news for a week, becomes less audible in the course of a month and then, is archived forever. Then, the system goes back into hibernation – till it gets jolted by another incident that grabs eyeballs and becomes breaking news.
There are some uncomfortable questions though, which the authorities would wash down the drain resorting to their usual political rhetoric.
- How many Indian Airports adhere rigorously to standards prescribed by the International Civil Aviation Authority?
- What are the contingency measures put in place, in case a pilot overshoots the runway, as has been in this case of Air India Accident?
- Talking specifically of the Mangalore Airport, television channels and News reports have been labeling it as a “Tricky Runway”. If it is indeed a tricky runway, why have flights been allowed to operate from something “tricky” in the first place? Civil Aviation is not a gimmick or an adventure game to play with, when hundreds of lives are at stake!
- How does it justify waiting for an accident to happen before analyzing why things went wrong? Why do we always wait for something to happen, rather than making sure standards are met with and that the system is fool proof?
Things can be left to fate, when the system is set to function. But, loopholes in the system are not to be tolerated. Well after 159 lives have been sacrificed, can the Government swear that every airport in the country is compliant with International Standards? Can the Prime Minister testify that the system is in place to meet contingencies? Will those airports that have “Tricky Runways” be closed for good, till they are branded as “Safe”? Can passengers know for sure that the system actually works so that where they land does not become their Final Destination?
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Monday, March 08, 2010
I was confused to begin with, then, as I grew up listening to it, I got used to it. Nowadays, I find it rather funny. What exactly is this “Dealing Terrorism with an Iron Hand” or “Having Zero-tolerance for Terrorism”?
I was confused because I did not know, when I was young, what terrorism exactly was, except that it was bad and we should not tolerate. I got used to it later, because I found these statements following every terror attack in the country – the next time terror strikes, I used to think, I would hear this statement from the President or the Prime Minister of India. Now, I find it plain funny. What I would feel about it in the future? Irritating? Disgusting? Or would I find it too commonplace that I stop giving terrorism a damn thing?
A present, however, it is funny because it carries no meaning in the first place – I normally laugh when someone says anything that doesn’t mean anything at all! Then, the people who say this do not actually mean it – they just read it out of a written script. I find it funny because the script-writers have run out of imagination and creativity that they repeat the same words after every terrorist strike. Then, I find it funny, as everyone seems to say the same thing – that they have zero tolerance for terror. The Prime Minister, the president, the Home Minister, the Quasi-Prime Minister, and every other politician in this holy country of non-violence, make it abundantly clear that they will never tolerate terrorism, but they keep tolerating it, just as the buffalo would tolerate the vultures that feed on its wounds. Well, not that I compare anyone with buffaloes here, anyway – that was just an analogy that came to my mind.
But then, to think of it, what should the Government actually do, if its policy really is zero-tolerance to terrorism? It should beef up security, make its border security fool proof, be ultra-smart in intelligence gathering and sharing, never acknowledge anyone who Indulges in terrorist acts, and refuse to negotiate with any organization or institution or country that abets terrorism, as part of its overt or covert agenda. And a country that has zero-tolerance for terrorism should be prepared to face the consequences of terrorism with a brave heart and a drawn out sword, willing to sacrifice for what it believes in, without flinching or stepping back from what it stands for.
Terrorism is war declared by the terrorists on a nation – and when it is war, there will be pain. A country that has no backbone to bear the pains will never be able to deal with terrorism with an iron hand. And a country that has zero-tolerance for terrorism would not have let terrorists walk out of a hijacked airplane that was landed at Kandahar! If terrorists hijacked the plane, an uncompromising nation would have ordered blowing up of the plane along with all the innocent lives, whose fates were badly intertwined with that of the doomed terrorists. If terrorists want to negotiate holding a bunch of ill-fated passengers for ransom, the Government should refuse to acknowledge the terrorists – and challenge them to blow the plane into pieces themselves, or offer to do it for them!
Now, that would be dealing with terrorism with an iron hand; that would be zero-tolerance for terrorism. And if the Government had done that, there would not have been a 26/11 master-mind, who merely shifted the battleground – and its cannon fodder – from one place to the other, from Indian Airlines flight IC 814 to the Taj at Mumbai.
Terrorism cannot be fought against with zero casualties. When we have a dangerous neighbour, there is something better than living in fear – and that is to be ready to die with courage. Somehow, there has not been a single Government at power in the Centre in all these years of Indian Independence, which has shown the courage and the conviction to deal with terrorism with an iron hand, to have zero-tolerance for terrorism. And even as I write this piece, I find that it is not funny anymore – it is only pathetic. It is a pity that of all the people in power, over all these years, of the thousands of people who have only grown fat in politics, there has not been a single man who had the balls to deal with terrorism with an iron hand!
So, my dear terrorist, you may feel free to bomb the living daylights out of our country. Our politicians have all the tolerance you may expect from them for your terrorist deeds – and they would only deal with you with a feather touch, never with an iron hand.
Thursday, February 25, 2010