The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
Email This Page

A train accident near Hyderabad and a burnt-down building in Calcutta show up similar national tendencies. First, both use hasty and predictable speculations to avoid the question of accountability. Second, both indicate the extent to which Indians have given up entirely on official investigations into accidents of this kind. The findings of such inquiries, if they are ever made public, are either not taken to be reliable, or there is a collective indifference to the whole thing altogether. On both counts, irresponsibility and callousness governmental as well as public foster an unjust society and dangerous living conditions. Doing the rounds in both cases is the convenient idea of sabotage, a bogey invoked by different parties for different ends in the aftermath of most such accidents. It remains the best means of deflecting attention away from internal factors by giving a political twist to these incidents.

In this context, it is unusually wise of the railways minister to withhold any conclusive statement about sabotage of the Hyderabad-Bangalore Express till the results of the investigation are known. This has not, of course, dissuaded others from speculating freely and without bothering about any conclusive evidence. The South Central Railways and the police are now fighting over conflicting interpretations. This makes a mockery of the inquiry itself, which becomes, in the process, the least important thing, to be forgotten quite readily by everybody concerned. In Calcutta, the police, the municipality and the fire-department are playing a similar game, each turning the sabotage theory to its own advantage, in order to avoid responsibility and to put the blame on the other bodies. In this case too, the proper inquiry has become an irrelevant issue, projected to a future that is distant enough to ensure public oblivion. All this comes together to form a picture of a pervasive and shocking jadedness to corruption that could even have massively fatal consequences. A state indifferent to the value of human life and a public without the fear of bodily harm are perhaps more frightening than the thought of sabotage.

Email This Page