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Running to a disaster

india Updated: Jul 12, 2011 21:41 IST

When a train crashes, it is a tragedy, not a photo op. When the Kalka Mail derailed near Malwan station, killing almost 70 people and injuring about 300, the point was to save the living and get into quick emergency overdrive. Unfortunately, like bears to honey, journos to celebs and vultures to bodies, politicians have thronged to this accident site in Uttar Pradesh and don’t we know why.

Mukul Roy, the railway minister of state, who at the time of the tragedy should have gone to the site, didn’t turn up there. To the chagrin of the prime minister. But does that mean that the likes of Rahul Gandhi, Rajnath Singh, Uma Bharti and other UP leaders should have landed up there — or at the nearby Lala Lajpat Rai Hospital at Kanpur?

We don’t think so.

Disaster politics has a certain stench to it. But if Messrs Gandhi, Singh, Bharti and others can facilitate emergency care, we are ready to eat crow. Until proven otherwise, the usual utilitarian purpose of rushing into a disaster zone — where medicos and salvaging personnel should be left to themselves — is not only banal, but counter-productive.

The site of the Howrah-Kalka Mail accident, unfortunately, happens to be electoral prime property. Show some concern, respect and anguish at Malwan, and you may come across as a politician with feelings.

That Malwan may not be another Bhatta-Parsaul or Ayodhya eludes our politicians. Perhaps, the poor things genuinely believe that their presence is a great solace.

For in the end, a train travelling from Kolkata to a town in Haryana gets derailed in UP and claims scores. What our netas will underline is that UP, not West Bengal or Haryana, is going to the polls next year, so...