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All glitters, no gold

Sir — When hundreds of Americans are booked for drunken driving every day, there is no reason why Carl Lewis’s case — and he is a has-been — should hit the headlines (“Lewis held for drunk driving”, April 23). What is of greater concern is the revelation that Lewis features among 100 Americans who have been allowed at different times to enter international competitions in spite of failing dope tests. The irony, obviously, is that Lewis became the fastest man in the world in the 1988 Olympics after Ben Johnson was stripped of his gold medal for failing a dope test. Shouldn’t Johnson’s case be reconsidered then'

Yours faithfully,
S.K. Mitra, Calcutta


Fire alarm

Sir — The fire at the Satyanarayan Park market has once again exposed the inadequacy and inefficiencies of the fire service in the city (“Blaze below, baffle above”, April 23). The performance of the fire brigade has been outrageously inadequate in tackling major fires in and around the city over the last few years. There seems to be a series of major errors in judgment on the part of the fire brigade. The string of failures is not going to affect the fire service until the service, a government department, is kept immune from prosecution in spite of its costly slip-ups.

In the case of the Satyanarayan Park fire, the fire fighters had to waste an enormous amount of time trying to figure out how to approach the source of the fire in conditions of high temperature and poor visibility in the underground market. But the fire could have been controlled by sealing the air inlets. After which, fire-fighting gases could have been pumped in through the ducts of the air-condition plant.

It is time for the agencies and departments connected with fire safety in the city to become proactive instead of routinely blaming each other every time there is a fire. If indeed there are indications of sabotage, it is all very well to look for the guilty. But there is no ground for letting the non-performing fire brigade get away scot-free. They must be made to sit up and become more responsible.

Yours faithfully,
Raj K. Bagri, Calcutta


Sir — More than anything else, the fire at the underground shopping plaza at Satyanarayan Park exposed the injudiciousness of the West Bengal government to allow the mushrooming of shopping malls in the city. Most of these do not follow the required fire safety norms. In cases of fires in shopping enclaves like the one in Burrabazar, the authorities — probably municipal — which have approved of the plan should be held responsible for knowingly putting the lives and valuable property of so many people at risk.

Yours faithfully,
Kalyan Ghosh, Calcutta


Sir — The Satyanarayan Park incident should serve as a reminder to the lackadaisical state government and its fire brigade department about their total incompetence in putting out large fires. The firemen in this case were clearly not upto the job at hand. They could not even manage to trace the source of the fire for nearly three hours. And it is ridiculous that the firefighters had masks that were not meant to protect them against the heat. The masks were not even fitted to oxygen cylinders.

It will be unfair if all the blame is put entirely on the fire brigade alone, the shop owners are to be blamed too because of their lack of foresight in important matters. For instance, keys to alternative entrances could not be found for a long time as no one had any idea where they were. The water sprinkler system in the shopping complex also did not work according to the reports. Why had these things not been given the attention they deserved'

Yours faithfully,
Kallol Datta, Calcutta


Parting shot

Sir — The front page picture of the tearful American Sergeant Lonnie Roberts, at the funeral service of a compatriot, did not manage to move me (April 18). I had been much more shaken by the picture of Ali Ismail Abbas a few days earlier. The two pictures reminded me of a comment by Joseph Stalin: “One death is tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic”.

Yours faithfully,
A.S. Mehta, Calcutta


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