Paraali, Paroles and a Fallen Footbridge – The Vishwa Guru has a lot on its Plate

By Abhinav Pancholi

Why this hullabaloo over the Oreva Company official’s description of the Mourvi tragedy as an ‘act of God’? When the local municipality handed over the repair, management and control of the footbridge to this company on a Rs. 300 stamp, lock, stock and barrel, did they not anoint the officials of the company as veritable Gods? Lest the divine halo might not shine brightly enough, they even signed away an official non-interference clause. Six days after the tragedy, one can only hope and pray that our decrepit, dysfunctional system has managed to fish out all bodies and arrived at the correct number of casualties, so that proper compensation may be paid.

I do not think South Korea would have had any trouble in arriving at the exact number of dead after the Itaewon stampede. Speculative death-tolls are uniquely sub-continental phenomena. It has been suggested that only paint and frills were taken up by Oreva in the name of repair and maintenance, the pin system of the 143 years old bridge was not even greased. It seems that the stingy suckers of Oreva spent Rs.12 lakh out of the promised Rs. 2 crore, and yet made the footbridge operative to cash in on the festival season. Do not dub them greedy, they are businessmen in the classical Indian mould. The company did not apply for and was not issued a ‘fitness certificate’, whatever that means. Overloading and unrequited snapping at its cables are supposed to have brought it down. It is not the greed that riles, rather the institutional callousness and complete regard for due procedure and lives that shocks. This is the quintessential ‘us’- people who cannot enforce norms, do not know how to act responsibly and worse, have no clue how to fix responsibility when something goes wrong. The beauty of this incident is that no one shall really be held guilty, although anyone can be blamed as per political convenience. Havens forbid if the state or the local government leadership even gets mentioned or the senior officers get questioned. The lowly company officials might get rapped on their knuckles but shall escape due to technicalities. The promoters and the bigwigs shall get protection. Some clerks, chaprasis and chowkidars might be held, but shall ultimately go scot-free, for how can you really blame them for existing!

Good behaviour by honest men generally goes unnoticed. It is on expected lines, just like a wicketkeeper has got to bag catches. But if you are serving life in Indian prisons, the governments are more than eager to distribute certificates of good behaviour to ensure that you enjoy parole or furlough or rehabilitation fucking package what not thank you very much. ‘Good behaviour’ can mean different things in the context of different people. A serial killer cutting down on his kill-rate can be applauded for trying to be good. A rapist, not going on grab rampage, can be said to harbour good intent. A politician speaking truth for a change, a guru feeding birds, and a swindler not selling drugs outside the jail – are all worthy examples of model good behaviour. Government officials can be at their best behaviour merely by turning up on time, and complaining about their meagre salaries.

No one serving life is an ordinary man. There is something special about every single one of them. The track record is proven, the influence cannot be denied, promise of future nuisance is strong. What else do the Public Prosecutors require to croak ‘no objection’? The parole option can be exploited well by merely harnessing good lawyers having uncles as judges. The poor and the weak should neither apply nor aspire.

The Vishwa Guru with all its superpower pretensions has not been able to find any solution to the problem of stubble-burning even after ten years of trying. A developing country has to balance its environmental concerns with the developmental goals, it is averred. Annadata is always right, I am told. The wheat basket, they brag. The rice bowl, someone adds. Pig-headed brutes, mollycoddled spoilt brats, I maintain. The farmers of Punjab insist on burning stubble and not change their manner one bit, because this satisfies their inherent sadist tendencies. The equipment sent by the Centre, like the crop-residue management machines and bio-decomposters lie unused. The same party rules in Punjab and Delhi, but doesn’t want to engage or act. Any talk on a probable solution degenerates into political mud-slinging, whataboutery and competing victimhood claims. (Everyone is a victim in modern India. The rich, the poor- people of all castes, religions, class, directions, colours, sexual inclinations and professions).

Amid all this, there is a 33 percent increase in fire-events in Punjab in the similar time period, even as 40 percent of harvesting is still to be done. Contrast this with slight improvement in numbers in Haryana and UP. The only solution that the Punjab Government is keen on entails directly bribing the paddy farmers by some thousands of Rupees. Since these farmers now smell appeasement draped in currency notes, they shall not be willing to comply in any other manner.

Perils of democracy, they say, you have to bear such standoffs. Japan and Italy have seen more than fifty governments after the Second War, but governance is not paralysed. UK has seen three PMs and four Chancellors of Exchequer in four months, but keeps afloat. Israel has more parties than Knesset seats, but manages to keep the Arabs in check. China would have outlawed paddy-farming in nearby areas if Shanghai was threatened with perma-smog. Truant, ineffective officials would have disappeared or sent to re-education camps. Careers of indecisive party office-bearers would have stalled. Crop-substitution is the only way this yearly mess can be avoided in Delhi. The city dwellers would be spared the hellfire only through that pathway. What a national shame that the National Capital Region cannot improve its air quality, and does not even seem to be working towards that goal anymore. Every authority has gone after firecrackers, but paraali, construction dust and vehicles have been left virtually untouched. The powers-would-be have wasted a decade in chasing patakhas when it was clear from the beginning what the root cause was. Local administration has come out with the laughable Odd/Even and the ‘Lal Batti-Gadi Off’ scheme.

Yes, we have managed to vaccinate a billion against all odds, and have embarked upon the plan to produce semiconductor chips. Our ambition to manufacture and export defence equipment might follow our huge strides in space. But our farm reforms are hostage to streets, and we dare not count our own, forget about deporting those who are not. Every government scheme is hailed a gift, every set of job vacancies are presented as a windfall, every road or irrigation project is bestowed upon the ‘beneficiaries’, and we are informed everyday how glorious are the times that we live in. We, the people, stand divided between those scrounging to get ‘revaris’ and others who are ‘labharthis’ of some sort. I wonder when shall we be fairly governed and treated as citizens?

About the Author: 

Abhinav Pancholi is a sports enthusiast and a lover of literature. His views might come across as vehement but that goes with the territory.


The opinions expressed in the article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Pragativadi and does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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