Friday, March 9, 2001,
Chandigarh, India



Lessons not learnt from history

Mr Hari Jaisingh’s article “Keeping fingers on the nation’s pulse: Lessons not learnt from history and experience” (March 2) was thought-provoking. History tells us that we do not learn from it. Take the hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane from Kathmandu to Afghanistan. Only a few years ago, a plane was hijacked when its valliant air hostess, Neerja Bhanot, fell to the bullets of the hijackers in her anxiety to save the passengers.

Experts of the world hold that the whole of India is earthquake prone. In the past few years, India has seen major earthquakes in Latur, Jabalpur and Garhwal. But we wake up only when the disaster is actually on us.

The Gujarat earthquake has exposed the builder-bureaucrat-politician nexus. Older buildings survived while the new ones crumbled.

In Shimla there are multi-storeyed structures, buildings in nullahs, and on slopes which may not survive even a minor tremor. Chandigarh which has several multi-storeyed buildings, had a minor earthquake only a few days ago. Delhi’s DDA building has a number of storeys. Will our governments think about all this?



Foreseeing perils: The Gujarat tragedy shows that we have learnt little from experience. A casual tendency to governance has encouraged complacency and tolerance of wrong-doing. Our consecrated elite are more often than not, guided by casuistry, rather than real concern for the people. We continue to build tall buildings although we know that the whole of India is prone to earthquakes. The fact is that the history of our nation is but one long chronicle of mistakes and fatal errors.

What we require today is not only tremendous political acumen or political wisdom but also steadfast devotion to see perils in advance to checkmate them whenever they happen to visit us.


Civil defence set-up: In times of war the civil defence organisation rescues people from under debris, extinguishes fires and moves casualties to hospitals. This organisation is considered the fourth arm of a nation after the army, the navy and the air force. But we have this organisation only on paper. So far as equipment is concerned, there is nothing, only some officers are sent to the National Civil Defence College at Nagpur for elementary training. If this outfit is activated and given proper training and equipment, it can prove highly useful in tackling of calamities such as earthquakes, floods, railway accidents and air crashes.

Major NARINDER SINGH JALLO (retd), Kapurthala

Casual attitude: It is futile to lament that our administration and the people were unprepared for the Gujarat earthquake. The fact is that as a people we are not prepared to cope with any major calamity or disaster. We have a long sea coast, but were we prepared for the Orissa cyclone? Hundreds and thousands of our people work in and live near poisonous gas emitting industries, but did we have any crisis management system in Bhopal where thousands of people died? Almost every year we have railway accidents in which hundreds of people die. We raise a hue and cry after a disaster and soon slip into our ‘blissful slumber’ till some other calamity shakes us out of our complacency.

A casual attitude and tolerance of inefficiency and wrong-doing at all levels is our malady. Our complacency has encouraged the nexus between the politicians, criminals and a vested bureaucracy. The bureaucracy has encouraged a negative and obstructionist mindset of the administration. Red tape destroys the best of our plans and the most sincere of our initiatives.

Even after the calamity in Gujarat, the nation seems more concerned with identifying and punishing the building mafia than and tackling the bottlenecks in our administration.


Quake resistant technology: If the Department of Earthquake Engineering of Roorkee University has a good record of producing low-cost earthquake resistant technology, the services of its engineers and technicians should be availed of in Gujarat’s quake-affected areas.

Behind every scandal and disaster in India, one finds the role of corruption. Now the finger of suspicion points towards the building mafia in Gujarat for using substandard material in constructing the houses.

The other day, a powerful earthquake (measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale) struck north-west USA and areas of Canada. But this caused very little damage to buildings and human and animal life. This lends credence to the suspicion.

The writer has emphasised the importance of imparting earthquake education through schools and colleges — beginning from the primary class. Courses pertaining to earthquake education can be introduced in engineering colleges. But to expect a primary class student to retain such knowledge is to expect too much from the child.

IQBAL SINGH, Bijhari (Hamirpur)

Builders go scot-free: It is a matter of concern that our leaders learnt nothing from the earthquakes of Latur, Jabalpur and Garhwal. When earthquake struck Gujarat, immediate action could not be taken because of poor planning. No serious action has been taken against the builders who had violated the building laws. They are aware that after some time everyone will forget the disaster.

We do not need a group of secretaries who are ignorant about disaster situations, but a body of experts with emergency powers. They should be able to take quick decisions and have them implemented.


Need for full knowledge: The memory of our people is very short, especially that of the leaders and bureaucrats who tend to take disasters lightly and forget them without taking any remedial measures.

Earthquakes should be debated on all relevant platforms as this natural calamity so frequently shakes the minds of people all over the globe. Full knowledge about earthquakes should be imparted to all, right from the school level. The people should know the do’s and don’ts in the event of an earthquake and other natural calamities like floods, cyclones etc. The Government should produce earthquake engineers who should handle all matters relating to earthquakes. Bureaucrats and politicians should be kept out of it.

D. P. JINDAL, Mandi Gobindgarh

Pension accounts

Pensioners have often complained about delay in the disbursement of pension. Pension accounts are not to be treated as regular accounts by any bank. There is no service charge involved as far as pension accounts are concerned. Except in April, pension is to be given before the end of the month. The payment is made over the last four working days of the month. The details and modalities of the arrangement are left to the branch managers of the banks. However, the system should be transparent and should be prominently displayed on notice boards or adequately publicised so that each pensioner is fully aware of the date when he can draw his pension. In April, the pension is to be credited after the first.

For old persons who are unable to go up to the bank to draw their pension, the banks depute their staff to deliver the pension.

M. R. PAI & S. DIVAKARA, Mumbai



Doctors in the dock

Attacks on medical practitioners and their clinics have become a part of life in Haryana. Recently, a doctor was attacked in Jind by some car-borne assailants, which has sent shock waves among the medical community. A doctor can only try his best to treat a patient with the help of his knowledge and experience. He has no magic wand with which he can cure a patient in an instant.

The patient as well as the relatives who accompany him should understand that a doctor has no intention to harm his patients. There may be some black sheep in the profession, but their number is very small. It is unwise to blindly brand the whole medical community because of the few whose only aim is to mint money and not be faithful to their profession.


Jamming the highway

Traffic jam on the Shimla highway by protesting traders of Pinjore is an example of making freedom and liberty a licence. Two wrongs do not make one right. An aggrieved party has the right to protest but not at the cost of others.

Being stranded for four hours in a bus was an ordeal. Try to imagine the anguish of a son whose mother had suffered a heart attack and who was rushing to be with her. What was his fault and, for that matter, what was the fault of all the stranded passengers?

All the time rumours had a free run. There was a young man going from bus to bus telling people about police firing and casualties.

The jam was caused by the protesters but confusion on the road was created by impatient drivers keen to jump the queue of vehicles.


Unplanned digging

The Mall Road of Shimla has been losing its charm day by day, due to unplanned digging by different departments. About nine months ago, it was dug up by the Telegraph Department, then by the I.P.H Department and now it is the turn of the Municipal Corporation for laying its sewer lines. Because of all this, the road has lost its shape, to the inconvenience of the tourists and local residents alike.

The Corporation authorities should take measures to get the road repaired as early as possible.


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