The demon within
Meditating upon the year gone by, and in effect, introspecting upon the sea of change we have witnessed over the years as we drive ourselves towards modernisation and development, hints at a glaring fact: ahead of nature, today, man is creating the biggest disasters for himself and his compatriots. The long drawn pull-and-push between Man vs. Nature has been reduced in intensity and impact. While no doubt, nature continues to be the most sacred aspect of our life, demanding primary care and preservation—massive disasters which were earlier only harbingered by natural calamities has been given stiff competition by man-made disasters, emerging from the callous method in which we have furthered our civilisation. India, this year, has been home to several such episodes. The first case in point which demands severe correction has been the escalating numbers of train derailment cases that are reported from across the country, this year witnessing well over 50 such accidents. Often leading to a large number of victims and casualties, derailments are a direct outcome of our lackadaisical governance, a perfect example of freshly brewed man-made disasters. The recent fire that broke out in Kamala Mills, Mumbai, was again a harsh reminder of how petty our immensely valuable lives become when trysting destiny with disaster. Unmanned constructions, lack of safety methods and the absence of evacuation procedures is a common sight across metropolitan cities. The Stephen Court fire episode in Kolkata in 2010 had taken the lives of close to 50 residents; despite a forewarning, we still had to battle the Kamala Mills disaster. God forbid, the dingy lanes of Hauz Khas Village in Delhi are only setting the stage for another calamity that could have well been averted by abiding norms and positing citizen's safety above profiteering. While the BMC of Bombay is the richest municipality in the country, the city's expansion and planning has been completely haywire. With overcrowded streets, buildings propped up in the tight vicinity, local trains carrying significantly more number of people than their desired capacity, monsoons that bring the city to a standstill and a proliferating population making its way through the dim bylanes, the city is probably the most threatened by human disasters today. The Elphinstone bridge stampede was the expected outcome of such a misdirected destiny. A misheard message led to panic and confusion, with rains battering down, 23 people died in the stampede—an incident that could have been easily averted had the dimensions of the bridge been built in cognizance of the large population travelling through Mumbai's local trains. Calamities aside, this year has also seen man himself take on the face of a demonising disaster—with widespread cases of lynching, mob violence and brutal death being reported from across the country. This year, we must introspect and correct ourselves before battling any other enemy.