Saturday, March 06, 2010

Ashram Tragedy: Inefficient administration to be blamed, Media fails to fix responsibility for 63 deaths in UP's Pratapgarh

Just when TV channels and media are expressing outrage over the unfortunate murder of a three-year-old Indian child in Australia, the apathy towards fixing responsibility of local administration in the tragic death of 63 persons including 26 children shows how dumb we are as a nation, especially our middle-class that has pretensions of knowing everything.

The incident angers me because it reflects absolute failure of media, which not just failed in inform citizens as to who is the real culprit but instead goes ahead passes the buck on others including the hapless devotees.

The news channels didn't for once said that who is to be blamed for lack of arrangements at the Ashram, rather they was busy giving clean-chit to officials, even praising them.

For instance, a paper reported, 'Rescue operations took off quickly and the injured were rushed to the trust hospital in the vicinity. The district administration, too, made quick arrangements for the injured to be rushed to the primary health centre.'

In fact, I can't restrain myself further and must say that the reporting gave the impression that 'you poor devotees, you go to such places and you deserve to die'. And reports say that, 'Administration had not been informed by Ashram Authorities about the crowd'. This is the height of absurdity.

It was not a political event. Temples and mosques don't inform the police about devotees and the likely strength of the devotees on Tuesdays, Thursdays or Saturdays [Friday in case of Mosques]. And if the administration is not aware of the event, the top officials must resign.

Media keeps citizens ignorant about real fuctions and duties of the officials who are rarely held accoutable. In any case, the administration and police is always aware of all functions and crowded events in coming days. All journalists know that daily reports are prepared by local district-level intelligence, district administration, state intelligence and other government arms.

On the basis of these reports, the SDMs and the DSPs, their subordinates tehsildars and beat policemen are assigned task to manage the crowded places. The system is well-entrenched and in place for at least over 150 years. From the smallest administrative unit--the koTvaar [not kotwal], patwari, tehsildar, revenue inspector, up to SDMs and collectors, it's a complete hierarchy.

The state is not a joke. Arrange a small gathering at a public place or form a new society or group and you will come to know yourself. Local policemen will come and find out details. However, the state government and administration, having failed to ensure order, blame the Ashram and the case has been registered against the authorities.

The media hasn't put things in perspective. The Mayawati government should have taken action against the officials rather than simply registering a case against the Ashram and putting the blame squarely on Kripalu Maharaj's hermitage.

If I just quote from the Police Regulation, the duties of police clearly include arrangements at such public gatherings and fairs where they have to maintain a careful watch, ensure orderly arrangement and assist the Naib Tehsildar or other official deputed by the District Magistrate to oversee the arrangements.

The poor can't be faulted as they went to the Ashram where they expected to get laddoos, lota [utensil ]and Rs 20. You can't blame them for their devotion also. It's clearly the fault of the state, the administration and the society.

Celebritites lend support to campaigns in case of murder of one individual if he belongs to a particular class or section, but when dozens of poor die, no one speaks a word. Shan't an achor like Arnab Goswami take to task the officials who are to be held responsible for the deaths in Pratapgarh?

How can those who shout for hours over petty incidents, remain untouched by the sheer gravity of incident. No less than 26 children died! And if they don't care, then we surely have no moral right to call ourselves educated.

Read past stories on how Indian bureaucrats wield maximum power but shun all responsibilities.