What is wrong? What should be done?

India is no place for aam aadmi

I have always maintained that India is no place for aam aadmi / common man even though aam aadmi comprises more than 75% of the population of this country. We are reminded about their plight when media picks up an incident and highlights it. Some us talk about it on talk shows, quite a few listen to the debate on talk shows which usually ends up as a slugfest between BJP and Congress spokespersons while most of the affected aam admi population accepts it as business as usual. They are indifferent. They know nothing is going to done about anything as far as their life is concerned. They will have to keep on struggling with no dignity and with no light at the end of the tunnel.

Lets take the case of 22 lives lost in a stampede at the Elphinstone road station in Mumbai. Practically every person including the aam admi commuters, the aam admi activists, the khas admees including the local counsullors, MLA, MP had complained about the poor condition of the foot-on-bridge (FOB) and some of them actually predicted “stampede” to practically every one who could have had responsibility to take appropriate action including local MP, MLA and railway ministers as well as other officials by all available means of communications including letters, emails, tweets etc but still the central, state government including railway ministry could not get a FOB widened of build a new one. The worst part is that no one even bothered to close down FOB till it is fixed as a safety precaution or even shut down the station. No one cared about the safety of the people. Life of aam aadmi or the common man didn’t have value.

What shocked me was that people commented that everyday it took them 30-45 minutes to get from one end of the bridge to the other. It was unbelievable but then I realized that this should have been obvious to me considering how jam packed the people were on the FOB and the fact that entry and exit to the FOB were blocked by hawkers. In addition, today morning I saw on the TV that the steps of these FOBs are dirty and slippery and I am surprised if there have not been multiple cases of people slipping and injuring themselves. Seriously, now I am going to stop complaining about travel time of 45-60 mins in an air-conditioned car considering the plight of an aam aadmi who is more aam than me.

What more. Yes, there is more. 23 deaths. No fire. Just Accidental Death Report. Police says that they do not know who to file an FIR against. I am surprised that the police did not file 1200 FIRs against commuters who panicked on the FOB and caused the stampede like it happened at BHU even though male police lathi charged girl students and even entered girl’s hostel, both acts all Indians should be ashamed of.

By the way, the indifferent attitude of the practically every state and central government as well as government employees is no different from what we have seen in the above case. In the instant case, since media got involved we have become more enlightened.

There are number of issues that arise from what has happened as follows:

(a) The most important is the issue of accountability of the government, state and central, government organization and institutions. There should be well thought out Act which fixes responsibility and punishment in a graded manner depending upon the extent of negligence. I would prefer that the Act should fix punishment for specific acts of negligence at every department or organization level and in a general manner for what is not covered specifically. For instance, once a missing drain cover is reported as missing and the cover is not fixed within 2 days, a fine should be imposed, if an injury accurs, may be a higher fine and damages and further if death occurs maybe loss of job, damages etc and in case of gross negligence as has happened in the present case, jail time.

(b) If Modi government wants to make examples of Mallaya and lalu Prasad & Co, then it should also make an example of government employees its own politicians including the minister. We do not want a high level committee of railways to report to the minister but we need the government to appoint a committee of aam aadmi and aam aadmi activists to decide who all were at fault including politicians and railway emmployees and decide what punishment they should get.

(c) It is very obvious that part of the problem is red tapism in the railways. This needs to be immediately removed. Modi government wants the aam aadmi to get digital then it should also get digital not only in collecting our aadhar numbers or collecting money but also in taking quick decisions. I am also unable to understand why something costing Rs. 10-12 crores needs sanction of the minister.

(d) Immediate response to all safety related issues and projects.A separate fast track standard Operating Procedure be laid down for emergency safety situations.

(e) Special department be set up where all safety related issues / complaints can be received and answered to. The buck for all safety issue will stop in this department and all complainants will be answered to and posted on the website.

Avinash Narula

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