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Manmade Tragedy In Delhi

THE fire tragedy at the Anaj Mandi factory in central Delhi is not the first one to happen – neither will it be the last one.  Numerous  fire tragedies have occurred at frightening frequency in different parts of the country,  much to the distress of the common man.  In the national capital itself, there were at least two instances of  hotels and hospitals  being engulfed in infernos. The grisly incident of an inferno that blazed Uphaar  cinema theatre in 1997 leading to unending court cases is still vivid in memory. The serious loopholes that were detected in the Uphaar tragedy should have led to exemplary measures being taken to make buildings fire proof. However, in India nothing leads to corrective steps. The Arpit Palace hotel volcano took place in the wee hours.  Ditto with the Anaj Mandi inferno which is described as the second most severe fire after the blaze that engulfed the Uphaar theatre. The death of more than 40 people is extremely tragic. Some charred bodies indicate the gravity of the fire. The lives of injured hang in balance. Since about 60  workers were in the said factory, with pitch darkness inside, the spread of fire was inevitable. Plastic, bottles and school bags  had been  stored in the said factory. Some labourers may have dozed off, or immersed so deep in their work, to take little notice of  the fire. The whole area of the mandi is cramped. It has been alleged that poor migrants from neighbouring states had been held captive inside the building. The building is four-storeyed; so some labourers may have lost their lives unable to walk down the stairs. The windows were virtually nonexistent, which may have led to suffocation. The trapped workers could not jump off. A short-circuit has been blamed for the fire breakout. The factory owners cannot escape the blame. The devastating inferno point to  blatant disregard for rules and regulations.  Toxic and inflammable materials like plastic would have spread the fire within and beyond. Whether the property had proper papers of the building, including safety equipment,  should interest the investigators.  Firefighters  performed the dual task of dousing the fire and saving  the injured persons. It has been reported that more than 150 firefighters saved  over 50  lives.  But for the window grills,  which had to be cut by the firemen, more lives could have been saved.


Mourning An Intellectual

IN the death of Padmashri awardee,  noted educationist and Konkani writer Suresh Gundu Amonkar we have lost a very inspiring and true Goenkar. At 84, he was a tall and extremely affable personality who was a wealth of knowledge. I recollect having first met  Amonkar in 1972 when he was a judge at an interschool elocution competition at which I was participating. An interaction with him over the years was very enriching. Even at  84,  Amonkar stood tall as ever, as always extremely gregarious and showed no signs of slowing down. All this after he having battled cancer for over a decade with so many sessions of chemotherapy. Amonkar firmly believed that it is only very strong will power and courage that can go a long way in battling cancer and that no one should maintain a veil of secrecy or shy away over any ailment being suffered including cancer. The very outspoken prolific writer and extremely knowledgeable Amonkar with a very broad outlook was a symbol of honesty, integrity and commitment. An intellectual and gentleman par excellence he always was.


Don’t Hijack Our Judicial System

THIS is in response to the editorial ‘Black Rage Over Rape’ (NT, December 9, 2019). Lynchings and fake encounters are the signatures of ‘might-is-right’ machismo. They are the symptoms of people’s lack of faith in the rule of law, democracy, Constitution and the spirit of justice. The people who support encounters killings  believe in violence and macho jungle rule where justice is meted only for the mighty. Ironically, these people do not hesitate to vote in favour of a rape accused. Indeed, many rape accused candidates get elected as MPs and MLAs. The supporters of lynching and fake encounters never ever demand encounter justice for political leaders or celebrities or the rich people who are accused of raping women. As a matter of fact, they are not at all interested in women’s rights and gender justice. Senior Supreme Court lawyer Vrinda Grover has got rape threats because she  condemned the alleged encounter killing of the four accused  in the rape and murder in Hyderabad. It helps us see the real cat that was hidden in the bag where the demand for mob trial in favour of rape victims is written over it in bold letters. This reminds us that mob rule always wants to use not only lynching but also rape and gangrape as weapons for delivering quick justice. Had they been really sensitive to women’s rights, they could not have issued rape threats to  Grover. Our civilisation will go  back to macho jungle where there is no place for women’s rights.  There is no doubt that we need more fast track courts and quick justice delivery system. Like police stations and hospitals, a 24×7 judiciary is essential as it is also an emergency service. All the pending cases must be settled within a stipulated time. All the vacant posts in the judiciary must be filled immediately. There must be a big cooling period after retirement of a judge. Indeed, there is so much to be done for judicial reform without delay. But yet in no way can we give lynch mob a chance to hijack the judiciary. Affordable, quick and satisfactory settlement of legal disputes is a crying need.


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