The news of nearly 80 children burnt alive in a Tamil Nadu school fire is indeed heart-rending. Being punished with death for merely being obedient is downright unfortunate. I cannot even begin to imagine the plight of the parents who must be going through hell. Fingers will be pointed; blame will be attributed to some lowly official and soon will be forgotten in dusty enquiry commission files. But the rot lies much deeper. This tragedy raises, as always, many deplorable facets of the callous Indian administration.
First, we seem to have lost the value for life. Burdened with a billion-plus population and regularity of accidents make the specter of death seem almost common place for us. We fail to understand that death of a single Indian, be it due to malnutrition, war, accident or arson, is almost as disastrous as any American death. Leave no man behind — is an oft repeated and advertised line used in American war movies but it makes whole lot of sense and shows that the government genuinely cares for its people. The tons of money the rescue missions in America spend even for extracting a child from a deep pit may not be economically possible for a developing country like India but not doing that doesn’t say much about the concern for the people, does it? Let us respect life and go to any extent to save an Indian life before offering that obviously demeaning excuse that we have plenty to spare.
Second, the tragedy highlights the damage that corruption has done to our system. When corruption permeates our educational system and allows sub-standard private schools without adequate safety precautions to function, death of a student was simply a disaster waiting to happen. We can get away by saying that without bribery, we simply cannot get anything done in India. I like you to say that when your children die in a school that has bribed its way to get itself registered without having basic amenities of a school. The buck doesn’t pass easily now, does it?
Third, we simply lack the power to understand the importance of common sense (or is common sense not so common after all?) The typical and obvious action, when threatened with fire is to leave the premises without panic. But teachers of that god-forsaken school seemed to think otherwise and instead shut the children in their classrooms, leaving them no escape against the rampaging fire. I have cursed the fire drill numerous times for inconveniencing me but if it is going to save my life, I rather do it everyday. When a teacher who is expected to impart knowledge that will guide the rest of your life but lacks simple common sense, it doesn’t say much about the quality of teachers, does it?
I can go on and on listing umpteen reasons for this tragedy, which might be not very different from any other but it’s akin to banging my head against the wall. Specific reasons might be different but everything will remain the same unless we address the simple real reasons.