Millennium Post

Indian help in Nepal disaster

The death of 19 people, inclusive of air crew, in a plane crash in Nepal near Mount Everest is a regrettable disaster. Many of these were tourists in the prime of their life who were out to enjoy the scenic beauty and other attractions of the mountainaeous terrain. These people should not have ordinarily died had adequate care been taken by the concerned airlines. It is not enough to suggest that a natural event or even an accident such as a bird hit was responsible for the crash. It is a fact that Nepal has an atrocious record of aeroplane disasters. In the past two years there have been six airline crashes in which close to a hundred people have perished. Just this May fifteen people, including 11 Indians, were killed when a plane crashed near the Nepal-Tibet border.  It is no doubt true that flying conditions are not easy in a mountainous region. There are fierce winds and shifting weather conditions which make flying, especially of small planes a difficult task. Even so, neither the authorities nor the pilots are unaware of the problems of flying and due precautions are expected to be taken. There is little doubt that there has been negligence. Most of the crashes in Nepal’s history of aviation involve domestic airlines. There are allegations of corruption and suggestions of a nexus between civil aviation officials and some private airlines which results in negligence in the maintenance of aircraft. That many of the accidents are due to human error also points to flaws in pilot training.

The matter is of concern as those flying Nepal’s domestic airlines are not just Nepalese but are international tourists and include many Indians. Therefore, aviation safety standards in Nepal are of interest to India. While it is good that Great Britain has offered to help in the enquiry to establish the cause of the accident, it is really for India, which is Nepal’s neighbour, to offer all help in the matter. The Indian government’s slowness to respond to a disaster in a neigbouring country, with which it has close and friendly ties, is somewhat difficult to understand. It is symptomatic of the policy paralysis and myopia of the Congress-led UPA government and of the cliched and vague drift in its approach to international relations, especially in the neighbourhood. This is costing India dear. It is still not to late. The Indian government must pull up its socks and offer all help to Nepal in probing the air disaster.
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