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Safety first

Do Indians lack common sense? There could be something in this if they need the Supreme Court of India to school them on the basic safety standards that need to be followed in public buildings.

india Updated: Apr 03, 2006 01:03 IST

Do Indians lack common sense? There could be something in this if they need the Supreme Court of India to school them on the basic safety standards that need to be followed in public buildings. The guidelines placed by the central government before the Supreme Court last week on safety mechanisms that can be implemented in school buildings take us completely by surprise. The suggestions include maintaining fire-fighting equipment in schools, trained personnel to use them, training teachers and schoolchildren for the eventuality of an emergency, keeping the school kitchen away from the classrooms and locating classrooms, instead of the administrative offices, on the lower floors. That it took the Centre one and a half years after a major fire in a school in Kumbakonam town of Tamil Nadu claimed the lives of 90 schoolchildren and injured many others, to frame such basic guidelines for safety in schools is astonishing. The fact that schools in the country need to be told that they must follow this drill is a tribute to the quality of educational administrators and managers who run our vast and supposedly regulated educational system.

Actually, the guidelines provoked by the court’s queries need to be followed  not just in schools, but all public buildings. Standard procedures like the ones quoted by the central government last week are neither expensive nor do they require a genius to figure them out. On the other hand, these could also substantially reduce the damage in the case of a disaster, besides saving many more lives, if not all. The Uphaar cinema tragedy in New Delhi as well as the Kumbakonam school disaster had set off calls for strict enforcement of safety rules. But once the public anger over these disasters quieten down, so seems to be the will of authorities to make sure that they are not repeated ever again.

All that we can see that it requires is a modicum of managerial skills to ensure that common-sense practices are in place and established rules are not flouted. Incidents like the police lathi-charge and ‘disciplining’ of cricket spectators in Faridabad last Friday, which left many seriously injured, need not have taken place had the admission procedure been managed more smoothly. A country that boasts of a vast army of trained managers and executives seems to sadly lack them where they are needed — in running the everyday life of the country.