Jun 1, 2010
It is generally said ‘there are lies, damn lies and statistics’. But statistics do give an insight into a number of issues concerning all issues that deal with our lives. With two major accidents in the month of May, one air and one train, one is bound to get sickened when discussions repeatedly hover around accidents and deaths. At the same time it has to be accepted that one cannot run away from reality. Now you will know why I talk about statistics because numbers are a better way of putting any risk into a perspective.
Statistics tell that at least 13 people die every hour in accidents on Indian roads. An equally large number of people die in railway accidents, some of which are accidentsl and some sabotaged. Accidents, to say in other words, are common to all means of transports, road, rail, water and air in which precious human lives are lost. Then there are killings, tragedies arising out of natural calamities, terrorist activities and violence bigoted by secessionist groups like the Maoists who have been unleashing a series of violent activities these days aimed at inflicting a crushing blow to the country’s security forces. I cannot help but recall the gruesome killing of 76 security persons a cold blooded attack by Maoist in Dantewada district on April 18 this year which was soon followed by killing of another 30 special police officers and civilians following a landmine blowing of a civilian bus in Chhattisgarh on May 17. Now the bus tragedy in Chitradurga has claimed another 30 odd precious lives. But these killings did not stir the consciousness of the people like the way the Mangalore air crash tragedy did.
The recent train derailment in West Bengal causing loss of lives of huge magnitude is one such example. In the month of May alone nearly 250 people have died in train accidents alone. Unfortunately, while the plane crash in Mangalore that killed 158 people triggered panic all over the world leaving a question mark on the air travel safety in our country there seems to be no hue or cry following the train tragedy in West Bengal that resulted in the death of almost similar number of people killed in Mangalore air crash. One fails to understand why this duplicity when in comes to the question of death? Why that air crash is invites international and national attention and creates so much hallaballoo.
While my condolences are with the families of the air crash victims and with due apologies to all I just want to ask whether we were over reactive or over sensitive with regard to the air crash in Mangalore. Of course the awareness and media coverage created a panic kind of situation and people are more sensitive to risks which are calamitous where people are killed all at once in a moment of few seconds than when it comes to where deaths are spread out. This also applies to the recent train accident of West Bengal or the Dantewada killings, which did not elicit the kind of emotional outbursts witnessed during the air crash from the media as well as from the general public. The Chitradurga bus accident where 30 people were burnt alive is again viewed as something normal.
While the plane crash was an accident, whatever might be the causes, the other two incidents that resulted in precious lives being lost, were acts of sabotage. The Security forces that were killed in Maoist attacks were involved in the sacred duty of defending our country and paid with their lives while on duty. But how many of us cried over their death or shared the grief of their families. The news of their killings did not even deserve a second glance in many of us leave alone creating any sympathy or grief for the bereaved families. No politicians lined up to visit the sight of the killings (except P Chidambaram offering to resign) and knowing exactly what went wrong resulting in such a tragedy.
In this backdrop I am just dumbfounded by some of the views expressed by so called expert, frequent fliers and the general public. The Mangalore air crash was a major air crash in almost a decade and people find fault with everything from the runway to the table top airport to pilot error and every other conceivable error that led to the crash. And people are talking about the need to shift the airport, creating a new one and deciding not to fly by Air India Express and such other inane talks which are more of emotional outbursts and immature. There was someone saying that some pilots and airhostesses were refusing to fly to Mangalore which is considered to be a difficult terrain by them.
Suppose we apply such logic to soldiers refusing to go to the battle field for fear of death. Imagine what would be the fate of a country if that becomes a reality. What if Indian soldiers refuse to go to Siachen Glacier or to Jammu and Kashmir because of the risk factor involved? Imagine if our soldiers had refused to fight in the Kargil war fearing death or if NGS had failed to carry out operations in the 26/11 Mumbai attack.!!!
We all know that every job comes with the risk factor and before choosing the profession one is aware of the dangers involved. Refusing to fly to any particular terrain after obtaining a secure job is an act of cowardice and opportunism. Just come to think of it. Can we stop using transport service because so many people in India die in road accidents? Should we suggest shifting of all the railway tracks involved in accidents? Will people stop using cars or two-wheelers which are prone to more and more accidents?
I think all lives are sacred and one cannot claim immunity from death. As it is said ‘there is only one certainty in life. But those who fly by air are not justified in creating a situation as if only their lives are precious. Every death, be it by air, rail, road or sea brings about loss of precious lives and grief to the surviving families. People do everything just to live. Agreed! By putting forth this view I might be dubbed as being insensitive to the air crash tragedy, which is not true. I am just being reasonable by saying that we should at least be practical and rationale. While reacting with grief and shock it would be a greater disaster if we let that overwhelm our good sense and reasoning power.