The tremendous multi-nation effort to rescue people even several days after the Turkiye-Syria earthquake, despite diminishing chances of victims’ survival, underlines the value that is placed on every single life in times of distress. India is even overlooking serious political differences with Turkiye to play its required humanitarian role. However, what value do we place in ‘normal’ times on people’s lives? The lack of concern can be witnessed in thousands of ways, be it through criminal negligence, or active disregard for others’ safety. Generation of awareness, preventive action, and enforcement of rules are almost completely lacking.
And it is not just the manner in which strangers are treated – the basic concern is lacking even for those closest and most loved. Consider the negligence in the way parents put their children in harm’s way. Toddlers seated behind the fuel tank on motorcycles; school students without licences given two-wheelers to ride with neither family nor the cops even bothering to ensure they wear helmets; crossing roads, including highways where and when it suits people – these are just a few of the suicidal ways fate is tempted on a daily basis.
The arrival of smartphones has complicated the situation multiple times over. Be it a cyclist, motorcyclist or car driver, they have their eye on the phone even as they drive and turn blindly. The tilted neck trapping the phone as two-wheelers zip through traffic, with the mind elsewhere, is a common sight. People walking the streets or even on rail tracks oblivious of the dangers make life difficult not just for themselves, but also others.
There is similar disregard for even the basic safety rules on construction sites, factories, social events, religious gatherings, et al. If a worker falls unconscious while cleaning a tank because of poisonous fumes, how does it make sense to send six more inside in similar way to rescue him? Not only does this reveal the lack of SOPs for emergencies, but a total absence of common sense.
Administrations everywhere in India that are tasked with enforcement of rules and regulations continue to function, in many cases, on the basis of century old practices. Given that social conditions and education levels in some states are also as outdated as the governance, but there are also states, such as Uttarakhand, that have reached the cusp of somewhat advanced existence. Politics and policies should now be geared to ensure that governance and lifestyles also match the requirements of present day realities. Otherwise the cumulative price paid is by no means less than in a catastrophic natural event.