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Making a case for effective people management

The stampede at Kripaluji Maharaja’s ashram which took a toll of 63 lives gave me a rude shock. It tells us how our impatience and selfishness could cost several lives, writes Khushwant Singh.

india Updated: Mar 21, 2010 01:55 IST

The stampede at Kripaluji Maharaja’s ashram which took a toll of 63 lives gave me a rude shock. More so as I often listened to his discourses on TV and wrote in his favour. What he said was entirely based on Hindu sacred scriptures without reference to any other religious texts. He has a phenomenal memory and quotes in shudh Sanskrit. He also believed in the efficacy of chanting Radhey Radhey as he dances. Many other religious sects e.g. the Harey Krishna, Sufis and Oshoites do much the same. I also noticed some contradictions in his preachings and practice. He says he does not believe in teacher-disciple relationship: “na guru, na chela, Kripalu akela (I am no guru, I am not a follower, Kripalu treads a lonely path)”. Nevertheless, he was designated Jagadguru (world teacher) and has a large following in India and abroad. He has also been embroiled in a few controversies.

The idea is not to extol him, but to fix responsibility for the tragedy. The principal offenders in all stampede fatalities are the people themselves. Most of them take place at places of worship where people gather in hundreds of thousands as at Kumbh melas or festivals. We, as a people, have yet to learn not to put ourselves first and wait for our turn in a queue. You can see that at every railway station in the country. Every time a train arrives, people try to get in and block the doors before those who want to disembark can get out. This applies to the affluent and the educated as well who travel executive class as much as to those traveling in cheaper classes.

Whenever I travelled by rail and had to come down the stairs of a bridge as at New Delhi railway station, I made sure I had one hand on the banister to let people in a hurry go ahead without knocking me down. Who would you hold responsible if a stampede occurs over there: the station master, ticket collector, the railway police or the impatient people?

Lets get back to Kripaluji’s ashram. The day the tragedy occurred was the death anniversary of his wife. As an annual event known to everyone around, he was giving in daan (charity) utensils and laddoos to anyone who came. He was not asking for guru-dakshina (offering to the guru). As usual, a huge crowd was expected. If the police at the nearest station, Pratapgarh say they knew nothing about it or were not informed, they are lying. They should be taken to task. Managers of the ashram should also have organised volunteers to control the mob hungering for prasad.

In any event, Kripaluji has announced handsome compensation (one lakh for every family which lost a member, Rs 50,000 for the injured). The Prime Minister’s and the Chief Minister’s relief funds were announced later. While Rahul Gandhi and Digvijay Singh went out of their way to condole with the victims families, neither Chief Minister Mayawati nor any other leader of note bothered to do so.

Dreams Never Die

It will be my lasting regret that I had not read much by Ahmed Faraz when he was alive. We spent many evenings together in Islamabad and Delhi. I wasted them in gupshup in Punjabi. If I had known more of his work, I would have asked him more about his work. I could also have regaled him by reciting those that I knew by heart. I never lose an opportunity to quote them when I have company.

The latest in my repertoire is entitled Khwaab Martey Nahin (Dreams never die). By dreams, Faraz meant visions of a world cleansed of skulduggery preached by oppressive regimes and determination to get rid of them. This is my translation:

Dreams never die/Dreams are not like hearts, eyes or breath/ Which shatter into pieces and scatter/ When the body dies/But dreams never die.

Dreams are like light, songs and breezes/ Which the blackest of mountains can not block/ Nor burn out in hells of tyranny / They are banners that flutter in song and wind; They mount scaffolds with their heads held high. Dreams Never Die/Dreams are words, Dreams are light/Like Socrates they drink cups of poison & like Mansoor they mount the gallows with a smile.

Acid Test
* Teacher: What is the difference between a problem and a challenge?
Student: 1 bed, 3 boys, 1 girl — problem; 1 bed, 3 girls, 1 boy — challenge

* Virginity in females is a sign of purity; in males, it is a lack of opportunity!
(Contributed by Amarinder Bajaj, Delhi)

The views expressed are personal