We are all seeking fictional reprieve
Sir — Truth is stranger than fiction. Is that why Indians sought to seek refuge in the latter in a year that has shaken the very foundations of the democracy? Google has released a list of the top 10 things Indians searched for on the internet browser in 2019. The list includes four films, three of which belong to superhero franchises. The fixation on fictional superheroes who can save the world from an apocalypse is telling. But I am not sure that even Captain Marvel — arguably the strongest Avenger — can save India from hurtling towards the path of destruction onto which it has been pushed.
Up in flames
Sir — The people of Delhi woke up to a rude shock recently when they learned that 43 people had been killed in the Anaj Mandi fire incident (“Fire kills 43 in Delhi’s live-and-work hellhole”, Dec 9). The Delhi government has ordered a magisterial probe to find out the causes of the fire. Fire officials said that the ghastly incident might have been the result of a short circuit and that most of the victims died of suffocation because of the dense fumes emitted by the combustible substances stored in the four-storeyed building. But mere words of condolence from ministers and offering monetary compensation to the kin of those who lost their lives is not enough. It must be ensured that such incidents do not occur in the future.
Amar Nath Bhadra
Sir — The horrendous fire incident in Delhi should serve as a wake-up call for the government and other relevant agencies. In one of the most fatal tragedies in Delhi since the Uphaar cinema fire, a blaze swept through a factory killing labourers living inside it. India has a history of such incidents. Hence an independent monitoring agency should be set up to streamline effective safety procedures and for carrying out regular safety audits. The government should also set up more fire stations to reduce response time and strengthen and modernize existing fire stations. Any violation of fire safety norms should be dealt with strictly.
Ramesh G. Jethwani
Sir — The recent incident of fire in Delhi cannot be considered just an accident. It was the consequence of utter negligence on the part of civic authorities. Not a single manufacturing unit should have been permitted to function without a no-objection certificate from the authorities. Yet a host of them were allowed to operate with highly inflammable materials in a building on a narrow lane in a congested area. Over a hundred workers lived in a building where several windows had been sealed off and which had few escape routes.
If killing a single person attracts the death penalty, why should those complicit in the deaths of so many people not be handed out the strictest of punishments? Even now, hundreds of such establishments must be functioning across India and waiting to turn into infernos. But none seems to care.
Asit Kumar Mitra
Sir — One wonders why labourers were living and sleeping in a factory that did not have basic safety clearance. Accountability when it comes to such violations must be fixed and the most stringent of punishments meted out at the earliest. Besides the ex gratia compensation to the kin of those who lost their lives, factory owners must be made to pay them a compensation too. The political blame game that ensued after the incident as usual must stop. But by now common people know that in the future, too, rules will be flouted, fingers will be pointed and ultimately nothing will come of it.
Bidyut Kumar Chatterjee
Sir — Delhi seems to have learnt nothing from the Uphaar fire tragedy in 1997. Several buildings are still at risk of fires owing to the flagrant violation of laws. But governments are too busy passing the blame and indulging in politics to take corrective steps. The city must be decongested and industrial areas segregated and subjected to rigorous safety audits at regular intervals.