Of killer garbage, shabby infra –and the apathy of the State



    Not just by crazy gunmen or terror acts, people also get

    killed by garbage or bridge collapses due to State apathy



    A lone gunman fires incessantly from the 32nd floor of a hotel in Las Vegas on a crowd of about 22,000 people enjoying a music concert, killing 59 of them. A tragedy of horrific proportions, indeed, it has been labeled as the biggest-ever mass shooting in the US. Though some have blamed it on the easy access to arms in the country, two of the survivors have come out in defence of the liberal gun laws.

    Caren Mansholt, who had crouched down as low possible as multiple rounds of bullets were fired into the crowd on Sunday night, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that such attacks would not be prevented by tighter gun laws. Her companion added: “It’s a tragic cost of freedom, that people can do bad things. If you can find a gun law that would prevent this from happening I could sign up today but I am proud of our country’s Second Amendment rights and I’m glad we are allowed to defend ourselves.”

    Polemics aside, the worrying aspect is how the culture of hate and violence is gradually seeping into the modern day society all over the world. Hardly a day passes when one doesn’t come across reports of ghastly killings of innocents for weirdest of reasons. There is virtually no country which is spared from the scourge of terrorism, and coupled with that, a plethora of justifications is being bandied by those out to kill another human being.

    India, in particular, has its reputation severely mired as far as the preciousness (or lack of it) of human life is concerned. Having long been at the receiving end of terrorism, killings in the name of caste, colour, religion or political differences have come to gain increased currency of late. Worse still, and perhaps peculiar to India, is the number of those losing their lives because of the State apathy and negligence. Two recent incidents falling in the last category are the deaths taking place due to collapse of a railway bridge in Mumbai and that of a garbage mountain in the national Capital.

    On September 1, two people lost their lives in East Delhi after a large part of the Ghazipur landfill collapsed sweeping several people on a road nearby into a canal. The collapse of the landfill, which had reached a height taller than a 15-storey building, was a clear case of administrative neglect. Dumping needed to be halted there when it reached a height of 20 metres, which was about 15 years ago. When it finally collapsed, the landfill had scaled a height of 50 metres! Media reports said at least one-fourth of the garbage collected in Delhi was being dumped every day at this saturated location and the local municipality did precious little to explore any alternatives.

    A day after the tragedy, the Delhi Government and civic officials swung into action and announced, with much fanfare, that the landfill won’t be used henceforth. The question arises why it had to take two human lives for the authorities to wake up? Why no strong voices were raised when the garbage dumping went on for all these 15 years?  Why people had to die simply because the State failed in its duty to do something as basic as managing the city garbage?

    Yet another instance of people losing their lives due to State apathy came to light in Mumbai on September 29. Twenty-three passengers were killed and 36 injured in stampede on a narrow foot overbridge connecting the Elphinstone Road and Parel railway stations.

    The stampede took place on a rainy day, a factor which according to Western Railway officials played a key role in people getting killed on the overbridge. Later, various media reports claimed that the Railways had been repeatedly warned about the condition at the Elphinstone Road station. The reports said that a Shiv Sena MP had even written to the Railway Ministry asking for a new bridge and in 2106, the then minister Suresh Prabhu had sanctioned it also. But, as it happens with most Government projects, till date the proposed overbridge is still at the tender stage.

    Though the authorities concerned came up with a host of alibis to shed charges of neglect slapped at them, it’s a fact that not enough care has been taken to improve the basic infrastructure of the Railways. At a time when the country is being made to enjoy the dream-ride on a bullet-train, why the upkeep of the local trains in Mumbai is still neglected and adequate safety measures not in place? Why the Indian Railways is still bent on flaunting new trains every year instead of focusing on infrastructural and safety issues? The answer to all these questions, once again, is official apathy.

    It’s time the various organs of the State started valuing human lives and ensuring their protection by performing the basic job assigned to them.