Costly Apathy

The habit of knee-jerk official response to disasters must be broken by public pressure.

 

The news of building crashes, fires and other accidents in Indian cities and towns are almost always suffered with outrage and an underlying sense of déjà vu and near resignation by most citizens. Almost everything about the so-called accident seems to follow a set pattern: exposure of a series of violations of safety norms and laws aided and abetted by the authorities and promises of swift punitive action by the said authorities, including sympathetic noises. In December 2017, Mumbai witnessed two major fires—one in a swanky pub on the 29th that claimed 14 lives and another in a suburban snack-making unit on the 18th that killed 12 workers. The expected reactions followed in these cases too, accompanied by the familiar kneejerk one of demolishing illegal structures and extensions all over the city. However, the most significant issue that these two incidents and innumerable others (including the stampede at a railway station in September 2017 that led to 22 deaths) across the country bring home is that of ongoing apathy from citizens and authorities alike. The lack of urban planning is only equalled by the lack of the community’s involvement in the process. Such apathy is fuelled by cynicism that things cannot and will not change.

The India Risk Survey 2017 by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry lists 12 risks to business perception and operations in the country. Fire ranks fifth on the list, having gone up by three places from the 2016 survey. The National Crime Records Bureau says that in 2015 a total of 18,450 cases of fire accidents were reported and 17,700 persons were killed. It further adds that 42.1% of those deaths were due to fire accidents in residential buildings. The majority of fire accidents were reported in Maharashtra, which accounted for 22% of these accidents. Interestingly, the survey put corruption, bribery and corporate frauds at the third position. Perhaps, this is a textbook indicator that the more things change the more they remain the same.

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Updated On : 9th Jan, 2018

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