DC Edit | Kuwait fire tragedy: Lessons in fixing accountability

In Kuwait’s worst ever fire accident, nearly 50 people, 45 Indians among them, have died and an equal number of people suffered burns or from smoke inhalation and so fatalities may rise. It is tragic that most of the deaths, some a result of jumping from the blazing building, were those of Indian expatriate workers who put in their blood, sweat and toil to eke out a living so they can send back enough money for their families to get by at home.

India which takes huge pride in being the top country in the world to get remittances from Indians working abroad, nearly $100 billion worth last year, has responded with messages of condolences, sent a minister to the spot and ordered the payment of a token sum as compensation with the Kerala government also contributing and individual businessmen chipping in.

Caring for Indians in trouble wherever they are in the world is a praiseworthy trait of the Indian government, but it has huge lessons to learn from the kind of prompt executive action that the Kuwaitis took with the Emir ordering a probe to fix accountability and the interior minister asking police to immediately apprehend the owner and janitor of the six-storey Al Mangaf building that was home to expat workers. Pakistani, Filipino, Egyptian and Nepali workers were also among the dead.

Action was also ordered to begin checking all such places of residence where some kind of ghettoisation of migrants might be taking place with several guest workers being crammed into small flats just to save costs for the recruiting companies that have to provide housing for expat workers.

Several officials, including second rung officers of the Al-Ahmadi governorate, an official of the municipality of the location as well as the director of the audit and engineering department and the official in charge of ensuring such violations, were spotted. All of them would have to face the might of the law in a monarchy known to act by the book.

Such quick action stands out in contrast to what we see happen in India with those who are to be held accountable doing everything to duck responsibility and whatever they can to upset the process of fixing accountability that the law enforcing machinery and the judiciary may attempt to put in motion after the event.

Force majeure conditions like a storm may have caused the large hoarding to come down in Mumbai, but only after the event were several glaring irregularities exposed — like the hoarding lacking permission and even the petrol pump on which it fell being in operation illegally. How long a luxury car could run in Pune without registration plates was yet another pointer to the laxity or outright corruption that holds our system in thrall.

Whatever action is taken, the dead cannot be helped but, by taking corrective steps after an event, the recurrence of such tragedies can at least be averted. What is it in our system that is stopping it from allowing the full force of the law to dictate terms to those guilty of offences? There are lessons to be learnt even from an extreme tragedy like the accidental fire in Kuwait.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
Next Story