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Mahi and our callousness: why we should be ashamed

If, God forbid, anything goes wrong with Mahi, the four-year-old trapped in a borewell in Haryana, let’s, for a change, be ashamed of ourselves.

We are an emotional people. We love tears. We like to shed them in copious quantities watching emotional dramas, both real life and reel life. We sob our hearts out watching people trapped in tragic circumstances in any part of the country. There’s a softer side to every Indian, which he/she would like to flaunt at the slightest provocation.

But we are insensitive rascals to the core too. We love to be entertained. We look for high drama, rich in emotional content, in every tragic incident, including the one involving Mahi. That is why our concern over the little girl smacks of hypocrisy. Since we are so hypocritical, we never learn any lessons from past experiences.

 Mahi and our callousness: why we should be ashamed

Baby Mahi is still trapped in a borewell. Screen grab from CNN IBN

Remember Prince, the six-year-old who slipped into a 50-feet deep borewell in Kurukshetra and was rescued safe 48 hours later by Army personnel? That was in 2006. As the news of Prince’s plight spread, courtesy the media, the emotional outpouring across the country was spontaneous. There were tears and prayers for him everywhere. He was fortunate to survive. More kids have gone down the uncovered borewell pits after that and only a few have come out alive.

Obviously, the contractors digging borewells continue to be careless and the government officials in charge callous about safety of people. Nothing much have changed on the ground. In India, we are not inclined to learn anything from experience. People continue to vanish down Mumbai’s exposed manholes, exposed electricity cables keep killing people, devotees die in temple stampedes, people travelling on rooftops of local trains get electrocuted and death keeps coming for Indians from the unlikeliest of places.

The fire at Maharashtra’s Mantralaya was waiting to happen. There were too many files on the corridors and just too much of unplanned woodwork, many products of vanity of top officials. Why wasn’t any top official at the secretariat, mind you it is the building from where the state is run, ever worried about a fire possibility in the building? Why is nobody serious about the stifling overcrowding at platforms or locals in Mumbai? It seems only a disaster makes us wiser in hindsight.

Let’s face it, we are just too careless about human lives. We love to pour our sympathies out once an accident takes place but would do nothing stop its recurrence. We like the entertainment tragic stories bring. That we would do nothing to prevent tragic stories reflect a sorry trait in our collective character. Our response is predictable. Blame the politicians, blame someone and get busy with one’s own lives.

But how long can we go on blaming others? Why cannot we go beyond the blame game and address the widespread culture of callousness? After all it is our lives that is at stake. Mahi is one of us, just as Prince is and Warangal kid Darawath Mahesh was. Mahesh, just 18-months-old, did not survive the fall. It is apparent that people who are supposed to keep us safe have failed in their job. But we must go beyond the ritual response if we want to end the repetition of these gory incidents.

Institutional efficiency is important in these cases, which unfortunately, is absent in the country. There has to be a shriller demand to make organisational response to potentially hazardous situations sharper and faster. Not many of us care to report a missing manhole cover to the authorities. Not many us demand that the fire safety equipment in our offices or buildings be put to the test. If there are complaints, there are no follow-ups. Emotion laden tweets or Facebook messages are a fake, escapist exercise. These is no substitute for active involvement.

Where were the television channels when files were piling up in the secretariat corridors and fancy plywood cabins were being set up? Why didn’t they think it fit to raise questions on safety standards earlier? Do they ever show us pictures of uncovered borewells or exposed manholes? Forget the faux sympathy for the victims from the anchors. They understand tragedies bring more TRPs.

Our collective hypocrisy is behind the recurrence of tragic incidents. We should be hang our heads in shame if baby Mahi does not come out unhurt.

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Updated Date: Jun 23, 2012 17:59:41 IST

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