Its got nothing to do with India’s ‘Path to Modernization’
David Rohde’s article on the Tamil Nadu fire tragedy reads, ‘In Fire, Striving India Town Finds Danger on Path To Modernization’. It is nothing of that sort. This tragedy is both due to government’s neglect of its duty to institute and enforce fire-safety guidelines (in spite of miles of red-tape), and the community’s lack of awareness and apathy towards such dangers. Overloaded power transformers, high-voltage power lines criss-crossing close to rooftops and buildings built in violation of zoning and building codes are so commonplace in India that it is considered naive or boring to even talk about them. Indian governments reflect Indian society’s general disregard for safety procedures or guidelines of any sort; from the absence of lane discipline to uncovered manholes to fire hazards in the form of illegal thatched roofs. Entrenched corruption has long distorted rules and their observance.
The link between the Kumbakonam tragedy and India’s ‘Path to Modernization’ is extremely tenuous, and Rohde’s article fails to connect the dots the headline promises. The fire had as much to do with India’s modernization as the Rhode Island disco tragedy had to do with the America’s war on terrorism.
Straits Times’ insensitive reporting
Singapore’s Straits Times, otherwise a sober newspaper, had a huge colour photograph of two badly burnt corpses of small children along with their grieving parents, covering almost 30% of the front page. The very thought of 80 children burnt to death in a school fire is graphic enough, there was no need – especially for such a photograph – to reinforce the imagery.
That was extremely insensitive. Shame.