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Preventable Tragedy


The death by electrocution of fifteen persons at a Namami Gange site in Chamoli is made all the more tragic by the fact that such incidents are easily preventable. All it needs is awareness among the general public, and rescue agencies, of the technical aspects of various situations. Be it any untoward incident, the first principle for the police should be to ensure there is no crowding at the site. The preliminary survey of the area should be done by personnel trained in the various aspects of disaster mitigation. In the case of electrocution, the obvious first step is to ensure electric supply has been switched off, preferably from the source.

It is important to understand that the officer class leads from the front, as is the case with the Armed Forces. In the case of a crime scene, for instance, untrained first responders can damage or compromise crucial evidence. Although the sequence of events has not become known, the probability is that even the uniformed personnel who lost their lives were unaware of the necessary precautions. No matter how much compensation is given to families of the deceased, it will not be enough to make up for an incident that should not have taken place in the first place.

The only consolation would be if the system learns the necessary lessons and the required protocols are developed to deal with the numerous challenges that may emerge in the future. Not only should regular training be imparted for every possible scenario, but the public also made aware, through various ways, of their duties. While the Chamoli incident was an unusual one, other mistakes that cost lives on a regular basis also remain unaddressed by the system, such as people drowning in the numerous rivers. Given the right approach, it is easily preventable, rather than have rescuers search for the bodies afterwards.

As ever more sophisticated equipment comes into use, Indians need also to learn the culture of dynamic maintenance by which such mishaps can be anticipated and prevented. One needs only to look around to see, for instance, the poor state of power transmission equipment such as poles and transformers, mostly overgrown with vegetation. Are these not a disaster waiting to happen? India can never become a ‘developed’ nation if it does not develop the ability to deal with what that brings.