View from below
Sir — As per the UNDP Human Development Index 2006, India ranks a poor 126 under various heads, including literacy. This proves that a large number of Indians remain illiterate, even after six decades of independence. India is also one of the most corrupt in the world, according to the Transparency International. Instead of providing quality education and rooting out corruption, our netas are busy fighting for the spoils of power. There is thus little hope of redemption, as long as such men remain in charge of the nation’s destiny.
B.S. Ganesh, Bangalore
Wait in vain
Sir — The verdict reached by the court in the Uphaar case at the end of a long drawn trial is disappointing, to say the least (“Uphaar owners get off lightly”, Nov 21). The light sentences given to the owners, Sushil and Gopal Ansal, would not deter other theatre owners from flouting safety rules with impunity in the future. What is also disheartening is that the court decided to punish the theatre staff, and not the owners, heavily. The Ansal brothers, who were given two-year-jail terms each, are already out on bail. However, bail was denied to seven other accused, who have been handed out seven years’ of rigorous imprisonment. This is shocking indeed, considering it is always the responsibility of theatre owners to ensure the audience’s safety within the premises. Had the Ansal brothers arranged for a sufficient number of escape routes and adequate fire-fighting equipment, the tragedy could have been averted.
Before deciding to punish the staff, the court should have considered the fact that low grade employees have no say in matters of managing a theatre. Had they reported the irregularities on the premises to the concerned authorities, they would have certainly risked losing their jobs. The court has made them the scapegoat, and allowed the real culprits to get away lightly. Such a lopsided verdict is likely to send a wrong message to the society. The court’s decision needs to be reviewed to ensure that the rich and powerful pay for their crimes.
S. Mukherjee, Burdwan
Sir — The long wait for justice for the families of the victims of the Uphaar tragedy has finally come to an end. The verdict, whether satisfactory or not, signifies a closure of sorts. Now that the court has punished the guilty, albeit belatedly, the victims’ families should now try and get on with their lives. However, putting the tragedy behind them would not be easy for these people. They are likely to be haunted by uncomfortable questions for the rest of their lives: did their kith and kin deserve to die for somebody else’s fault' Or have the accused really got the punishment they deserved' Unfortunately, it is difficult to answer these questions, especially in a manner that would be able to reduce the pain and suffering of the relatives who lost their loved ones.
Farzana Z. Khan, Pune
Sir — Can we call a vaccine a vaccine when it does more harm than good' (“Danger signal over HIV vaccine”, Nov19). The findings published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation state that a virus used in experimental HIV vaccines that have been given to volunteers across several countries, including India, has crippled the immune system in mice. Rogue researchers have no right to treat volunteers as guinea pigs , endangering their lives in the process. Given the fact that such experiments are fraught with risks, civil society will have to think of measures which would keep the volunteers in AIDS research safe.
Surajit Das, Calcutta