May 25, 2010
I wish to offer my sincere condolences to the families who have lost their dear ones in the tragic air accident of Bajpe Airport, Mangalore, in the wee hours of Saturday morning. Imagine waiting at the airport lounge expecting the arrival of the loved ones, and few moments later going through a roller coaster experience of witnessing a horrific incident sending surviving family members and friends in a state of sorrow for the rest of their lifetime. The loss is colossal and no words of sympathy can obliterate the pain of losing the near dear ones. The fatality list is heart rending – many children and infants accompanying their parents; happy family members gathering for marriage; large family going to attend a funeral -- each precious life that was lost has a touching story to tell. The enormity of the tragedy is difficult to capture in mere words.
In the days to come, the Government will undoubtedly initiate enquiry commissions that will go on for years until another incident occurs eventually, to start it all over again. As a mark of respect to those who perished in this disaster, it is imperative that lessons must be learnt and lasting solutions must be found.
I have been an NRI for over 35 years, hailing from Karkala, South Canara, having a successful business in the UAE with nearly 400 staff members coming mainly from my native place. Our business indeed has taken us to almost all corners of the world, but nowhere did I undergo such chilling experience of landing at a table-top airport like that of our native Mangalore! My trips to Mangalore have been too numerous to enumerate, in any given week, month or year. Even with such frequent visits, landing at Mangalore airport has always been a “cliff hanger” experience, and it never fails to send butterflies in the stomach and close our eyes praying for a safe landing.
Statistical figures citing thousands of safe landings of the past do not give any comfort to the bereaving families, because, intuitively everyone knew that the fatal accident was waiting to happen any time. The lingering question is why in the first place, the government chose to have the airport in the present location with all known hazards and potential dangers? What is the compulsion to have a confined location, and why not in a nearby plain or seaside locality, which will be much safer? So many opinions were given in the media by everyone from aviation experts to politicians, but this pertinent question has not surfaced at all.
While the current airport is being reopened, it would auger well for the authorities to take a long term vision and draw up plans for the construction of a new airport in a safe zone. I believe it is the responsibility of every one of us to raise this issue in all available forums in order to get the attention of the authorities. That would be a worthy cause and a good lesson learnt to save innocent lives in the future.
The handful of survivors from the accident stands testimony to the basic traits of human endurance. Special mention must be made to the neighbourhood volunteers for their selfless services in rushing to the site and helping in the search and rescue operations.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the grieving families to cope with this tragedy that befall on them.