This Dussehra, will we allow a train to mow down our innate humanity?
- TEAM PUNJAB TODAY
This Dussehra, will we allow a train to mow down our innate humanity?



PUNJAB is sad today. Very sad. Our grief is too solemn for any words.

It's not that Punjab does not have its brush with death every day, just like our other compatriots. It's just that some times, the manner of deaths and the sheer scale of tragedy hits us deep down.

This Dussehra turned out to be a day like that.

As of now, more than 70 people are feared dead and several others injured in the train accident near Joda Fatak, a level crossing gate. The sketchy details available so far suggest that Dussehra revellers were watching the Ravana effigy bursting into flames close to the tracks. The crowds had spilled on to the railway track when the train struck at high speed. Some reports spoke of two trains crossing in the opposite direction at the same time. The tragedy happened a few metres from the closed Gate Number 27 between Manawala and Amritsar in an area called Dhobi Ghat near Golden Avenue.
 
MOS Manoj Sinha is on his way to Amritsar. GM Northern Railway is also on his way. Governor Punjab is on his way. Amarinder Singh says he will go tomorrow. Reason - He doesn't want to go by road. No chopper, no Amritsar.
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THE FACT IS that we take human life far too casually, and only a tragedy of this scale and nature shocks us at times. Our capacity to lapse back into our chaotic comfort zones has become immense by now. Read this piece after a couple of months and you will feel far less impact. That's a measure of the loss of our humanity.
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As time passes and we have more authoritative versions, there will be more clarity, but some questions are pertinent.

Some of these questions are obvious, and will definitely be asked. Others are less likely to be asked, and are even more important.

Why was such a public event, likely to attract hundreds of people, held so close to the railway tracks?

Did anyone apply for permission from the relevant authorities?

Did anyone inform the railway authorities that people are likely to be there in their hundreds near the level crossing?

Was the event held at the same place in the past too?

Are other events also organised at the same spot, not just Dussehra?

There are other questions, which, if they catch the imagination of the masses, can prevent such tragedies in future.

In an atmosphere surcharged with religiosity and our politics punctuated by routine displays of organised religion, does an officer really have the power to deny permission for a religious event?

How interfering are our politicians when it comes to implementation of standard guidelines, rules, procedures?
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The one question you need to ask after watching the coverage on television and reading about it in the newspapers is this: Are we really human?
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At how many places was Dussehra celebrated in Punjab, and effigies of Ravana burnt, and how many of them had applied for permission?

What are the minimum conditions that organisers have to fulfil in order to become eligible for such permission?

What was the availability of ambulances, fire brigade services, first responders, rescuers, fire fighting equipment and fire fighters on a day when Punjab witnessed Ravana effigies bursting into flames at hundreds of places?

In fact, will the PMO act and make public the due diligence carried out at the Luv Kush Ramlila Committee event at Ramlila Grounds in Delhi that Narendra Modi attended and where he aimed that faux arrow from a faux bow into the faux nabhi of Ravana effigy?

Across the state, the best public hospitals routinely shut down their OPD on any festival day. In which part of the world is that considered a norm, or even humane?

At how many places in Punjab, Haryana or Chandigarh was a Ravana effigy burnt close to a petrol pump?

At how many places did the Deputy Commissioner of any district in Punjab inspected the site of Dussehra celebrations during a surprise check? Can the state government release the report of such a time and date stamped surprise check? 

Can the authorities in any district of Punjab release the copy of communication sent by the district administration to fire brigade services that included information about all the sites where permission for Ravana-dahan had been granted?

At how many sites did the authorities notice a Ravana-dahan event without authorisation?

What was the due diligence carried out by Navjot Kaur Sidhu who was the chief guest at the event?

What was the due diligence carried out by other chief guests at sundry other events? 

There are a hundred more such questions, but you get the gist.
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What are the minimum conditions that organisers have to fulfil in order to become eligible for such permission?
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THE FACT IS that we take human life far too casually, and only a tragedy of this scale and nature shocks us at times. Our capacity to lapse back into our chaotic comfort zones has become immense by now. Read this piece after a couple of months and you will feel far less impact. That's a measure of the loss of our humanity.

Punjab is losing far too many people in road accidents every day, but it does not become a political issue because our political parties need issues that can actually brush serious issues aside.

So the BJP needs some Hindu, Muslim, Love Jihad, Cow issue, the Akali Dal needs some Navjot Sidhu/Sukhpal Khaira issue, and the Congress needs some Bargari style issue to create grounds to marginalise the Badals and disempower the SGPC's hold on gurdwaras.

Meanwhile, trains can maul through the crowds at full speed, and we can nurse our grief for a few days till we lose a part of our humanity further and fall into a routine of tragedy-condolence-compensation-inquiry-forgetting.

That train just crushed our souls and bared our apathy. 

The one question you need to ask after watching the coverage on television and reading about it in the newspapers is this: Are we really human?

Will we be tomorrow also?
 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

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