That was a tragic Friday, when 59 people lost their lives in the fire at Uphaar Cinema in 1997, the justice for which has still not been done. We have yet another Friday bringing back the memories of that ghastly incident which took place 14 years ago.
Of the people who came to AMRI hospital in Kolkata to get a fresh lease of life, 89 actually ended up losing it in the fire at the ‘super-speciality’ hospital.
Uphaar, Kumbakonam, Stephen House, Carlton Towers and a fire at the AMRI hospital itself three years ago. There are many chilling experiences, and lessons learnt: zero.
What is it that makes us as a country so callous towards loss of human lives? Is it just because we are so many people that we do not think a loss of a few would make any difference to us?
Earlier in the day, Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee said, people spend their entire lives’ savings to get into hospitals like AMRI. Do they come there to lose their lives after losing all their savings?
Preliminary reports say that the hospital had illegally stored highly inflammable material in its basement which led to the fire gaining such disastrous magnitude. The hospital reportedly did not even have a blueprint of the building to provide to the fire fighters. There were gross violations of the fire safety norms.
Given that all the norms were in place, would there still have been casualty as high as has happened at AMRI today? Probably yes. Because in the times of such an emergency as a fire in a hospital where patients are not in a position to help themselves, the most urgent requirement is the presence of helping hands. Safety norms and fire-prevention equipment can prevent a fire from spreading and it is absolutely necessary. But what is the natural human instinct when a fire breaks out? Even when one knows that there are equipment in place, one runs for his life.
Doctors and nurses are supposed to save the patients who have entrusted them with nothing less than their own lives. What can fire safety equipment do for someone who cannot move?
The most shameful fact about today’s incident was that there was absolutely no helping hand available to the patients. Three of the hospital staff who could not escape, lost their lives; the rest fled leaving patients to die of suffocation.
One is bound to get reminded of the 26/11 attacks at the Taj Hotel in Mumbai. The sense of duty that the staff of the hotel showed by standing by their guests even at the risk of their own lives, saved many that day.
The AMRI hospital has eight Cs listed on its website : Collaboration, Convenience, Comfort, Care, Commitment, Coverage, Concern, Community. All it lacked was the most important C: Character.