Sir — The report, “Big brother comes to sister’s aid” (April 29), made interesting reading together with another report on the front page, “Virus victim turns medical reject”. The latter carried with it the picture of the sister of the first SARS victim of Calcutta, running from pillar to post to save her elder brother from the jaws of death or negligence, or both. While the patient in the first case got airlifted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences to get the best of treatment from the best of doctors, in the latter case, the patient got bundled off to the much-dreaded Infectious Diseases Hospital, a fate his family was desperate to avoid. The difference could not be starker. In a democracy where the common people are supposed to be the repository of power, a man without strings to pull is left to die, but a terminally ill sister of the prime minister, despite being in a “stable” condition, becomes cynosure of the capital’s medical world.
N. Chatterjee, Calcutta
Trial by fire
Sir — The Delhi high court has delivered exemplary justice to the victims of the Uphaar cinema tragedy by ordering both the government departments concerned and the influential owners of the cinema hall to compensate for the loss (“Damages for Uphaar fire”, April 26). The judgment will, hopefully, now compel corrupt government agencies to set their houses in order. Most important however is the fact that this has been the victory of the people fighting unitedly against the combined might of the government and the rich hall-owners. Such a verdict would never have seen the light of day had the victims and their relatives contested their cases separately. It is common knowledge how the judiciary works in India. Which is why it is not enough to ask for compensation alone. The erring government officers, Uphaar’s owners and the advocates who defended them also need to be socially boycotted. That would alone impress upon them the magnitude of their crime.
The court verdict shows the public a new way to control corruption in the bureaucracy, legislature or in any other arm of the government. For example, residents’ associations in non-VIP areas can drag the Delhi traffic police and municipal corporation of Delhi to court to seek compensation for the wastage of fuel and man-hours because of encroachments on roads and footpaths.
Subhash Chandra Agrawal,
Sir — A lot has been said about the Uphaar tragedy, but the authorities, particularly the government departments involved in the supervision of cinema halls, have taken no real action to ensure the safety of the public yet (“Beware of light, action, fire...”, April 19). Reports and articles in the print media have constantly pointed to the failure of the municipal corporations, electricity boards and the police to see that the safety regulations are being followed. Yet, in tragedies like the Uphaar fire, only cinema hall owners are singled out to be penalized and criticized. In the recent verdict, Uphaar’s owners have been asked to pay the largest share of the compensation. The public agencies have been asked to pay the rest, but it is quite obvious that they will never pay the requisite amount. Yet if the licensing authorities had not allowed the hall owners to make the “unsafe” alterations and the Delhi Vidyut Board officials been careful while repairing the transformer, the immense loss could have been avoided. It seems that a private entity, which itself has been the victim of the public agencies’ high-handedness and callousness has been penalized for more than its share. Let us hope that the judgment encourages public bodies to be more accountable and responsible in future.
Nikhil Kapoor, Delhi
Sir — The Uphaar verdict is indeed a landmark judgment. Though it comes a bit late in the day, the Rs 17 crore compensation could provide some solace to the grieving families. The best part of the justice was the court’s ability to nail the government agencies. The extra bucks the hall owners earned by way of selling tickets for the extended balcony for several years could not be possible without a nod from the government agencies. The proposal to set up a central accident trauma service in the capital is another welcome measure. Given the number of accidents that take place in this country due to fire or collapse of building, such centres would be of immense help to the injured and their families. This idea could be extended to other metros and cities as well.
S. Ram, Calcutta
Sir — If it takes 25 years for a telegram to reach its addressee, then the pathetic service of the Indian postal system does not require any more illustration (“Happy anniversary, a quarter century too late”, April 26). Since there are no provisions to sue the Indian postal authorities, the only consolation for the Palits is that the telegram brought them some kind of fame. They might as well auction the slip of stamped paper as a collector’s item of tremendous social and historical significance.
Sumant Poddar, Calcutta
Sir — With the performance of the Indian post and telegraph department going down the hill, the popularity of the various courier services is not difficult to understand. Although the telegram was sent 25 years ago, the persons responsible for the lapse ought to be punished, if only to set a precedent.
T.R. Anand, Calcutta
Sir — The report about the telegram which reached 25 years too late reminded me of one of my experiences. I received a marriage invitation seven months after the date of the marriage though the invitation was posted weeks before. Such hopeless service is a serious cause for concern, as a lot of official communications like interview letters, admit cards are sent by post. Also, in villages, where postal services still dominate the communication system, poor villagers get a raw deal. To compound the problems, many post offices are devoid of stamps, money order forms and so on.
Aritra Roy, Shyamnagar