KOLLAM FIRE TRAGEDY: Is it worth risking human lives and ignoring protocols?

Celebrations turned into a nightmare for the thousands of people who had gone to attend the fireworks celebrations at the Puttingal temple in Kerala. Bureaucratic power coupled with negligence has led to the death of almost 112 people with more bodies waiting to be taken out of the debris. It brings to mind the catastrophic event which occurred just a few weeks back in Kolkata. The collapse of a flyover under construction which was also due to negligence by the people in charge. While innocent people lose their lives and families break apart, the guilty almost always go unpunished.

In the zest to put on a fireworks show, the temple authorities at Puttingal ignored the protocols. Though not given permission due to constraints of open space in the temple grounds they went ahead with the “celebrations”, as they had top officials in their corner. And when an old woman and her daughter whose house was damaged in last year’s fireworks “celebrations” protested they were threatened with dire consequences. As the celebrations headed to its climax, with the most awaited firework of the evening, the sunflower blossom being lighted, tragedy unfolded. Sparks from the sunflower fell on a minivan parked outside the shed containing fireworks. As the minivan caught fire so did the fireworks in the shed. It lead to a massive explosion and even before people could realize what was going out they were surrounded with fire all around. The night had taken a deadly turn. Many would lose their loved ones. Many would suffer consequences for years to come. But what about the people responsible? Will these innocent men and women get justice for the tragic way in which their lives came to an end?
Both the events, the fire and the flyover collapse have brought to light the deep corruption which runs in the government places. People with genuine concerns are told to shut up so that the higher up authorities can carry on doing what their hearts desire. It is high time for these things to change. The situation needs to change. There are natural tragedies and then there are man-made tragedies. And man-made tragedies can be avoided. We, as the common people of India need to take steps so that such events can be avoided in the future.

All of us say that corruption should be removed. The government institutions have gone to the dogs due to corruption. But how many of us do anything to stop it? How many of us can honestly say that we have never slipped money into the hands of a government official, be it to escape a simple misdemeanor like taking the wrong U-Turn? Can we honestly say that we have never slipped money into the traffic constable’s hands to escape that challan being cut? A ticket being sent to our homes?
These are small things. But if we stop bribing the officials they will stop expecting a bribe from us. After all, what they expect is because we have built their expectations. We don’t want to face actual charges or dole out extra money and want to get away lightly. The corruption in the government institutions is our fault not theirs. And it is we who have to change it.
Charity begins at home and it is time that we realize that. It is time to choose.

Do we want life or do we want corruption?

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