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Damage uncontrolled

Reports that the Kolkata police had tipped off their UP counterparts about the possibility of bomb blasts are neither here nor there.

india Updated: Mar 11, 2006 00:27 IST

Reports that the Kolkata police had tipped off their UP counterparts about the possibility of bomb blasts are neither here nor there. They could well be the routine one-upmanship that comes in the wake of such events with every outfit claiming that they had forewarned their counterparts. But if we take the Kolkata police at its word, we arrive at the alarming conclusion that despite two decades of terrorism, the authorities do not have adequate institutional arrangements to combat it — that there is little or no coordination between various state and central intelligence agencies and police forces.

This feeling that the authorities continue to adopt a chalta hai approach to terrorism is reinforced by the complete lack of planning and organisation in coping with the aftermath of terrorist strikes, be they in Delhi or elsewhere. Reports from Varanasi speak of the chaos and improvisation that followed the blasts. People had to rip saris to use as bandages. In one instance, the door of a temple was used as a stretcher to ferry the injured. This is par for the course in the country, whether it comes to dealing with train or automobile accidents, earthquakes or terrorist strikes. Neither the police nor the administration has a well-established drill to get the injured to hospital and seal off the affected areas to ensure proper forensic examination of the site. So in the main, the hapless injured are bundled into the nearest available transport and dumped in hospitals where many die because of lack of adequate care.

Civil society and community participation is an absolute must in dealing with such emergencies. But the leadership and management has to be provided by governmental agencies and institutions. It is always useful to conduct practice drills to ensure that when needed, the systems fall into place faultlessly. To that extent it is a managerial problem. But what we detect is a lack of imagination and a callous indifference to human life and suffering. Perhaps its worst manifestation is that the high point of a ministerial or official intervention is the announcement of monetary compensation to the dead and injured. Mostly, the sufferers never manage to lay their hands on the money because the same people responsible for the poor response to the event are the very ones charged with doling out the compensation.