A little foresight can save precious lives - The New Indian Express

A little foresight can save precious lives

Published: 21st November 2012 12:00 AM

Last Updated: 20th November 2012 11:34 PM

All tragedies are agonising reminders of the transience of human existence. Nothing is more heart-breaking than a calamity that takes a toll of lives, especially of children, when it is known that it could have been prevented with a little foresight and preparedness on the part of the authorities. The deaths of 18 pilgrims, including children, who were attending a Chhath festival in Patna, fall in this distressing category. Since the celebrations are an annual feature, mainly in Bihar but also elsewhere, it cannot be said that the police and civic authorities were caught by surprise by the rush of devotees.

What caused the disaster, however, had less to do with the 4,00,000 pilgrims who turned up at the Mahendru ghat for the puja, but the collapse of a bamboo bridge, which led, first, to a scramble to get to the dry river bed and then to a panicky rush to a second makeshift bridge half a kilometre away. It was during the haste to reach the second bridge that the dreadful incident took place.

What is immediately obvious is the rickety nature of the two bridges although the authorities must have known how large crowds turn up for one of the most important festivals in the state. Why sturdier structures were not built will probably never be known since it will reveal the casual attitude of those responsible for making the arrangements. On most such occasions, the government seeks to make amends through cash compensations in the hope that the relatives of the dead, who are mostly poor, will quietly accept their grief as an act of fate. Moreover, since public memory is short, the tragedy will soon be forgotten. However, what needs to be stressed is that the unspoken attitude among the higher-ups that life is cheap in this country can no longer be accepted. Those who sanctioned the temporary bridges must be made to pay for their callousness. The reason for the inadequacy of the relief measures also has to be probed.

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