The trajectory of the blame game is unfortunate and insensitive

 As Kolkata buries its dead why is it difficult for politicians to just say sorry
news Kolkata Tragedy Friday, April 01, 2016 - 14:28

As foot in the mouth statements go, this one is a shoe shop.

Speaking to media a day after the tragic collapse of the flyover in Kolkata Trinamool Congress (TMC) lawmaker Sudip Bandhopadhaya pelted out similar tragedies implying collapse of buildings and flyovers is routine.

With that statement, he not only swallowed the flyover and all the unanswered questions about the tragedy, he also poured hot oil on the wounds of survivors and plight of families still hoping to recover their near and dear ones.

The tragedy on Thursday has left 24 dead and 80 injured. Aid and rescue staff have said chances of saving others buried in the debris is slim is non-existent. The TMC’s wisdom comes on top of the flyover’s builders saying the collapse was an “act of god.” The tragedy has made international headlines and political parties have lost no opportunity in apportioning blame on each other. Fact is among the casualties.

The TMC government has laid the blame squarely on the previous CPI (M) government accusing the communists of granting contract without due diligence. The deal to build the flyover signed seven years ago is only 70% complete. Delays and nuisance to public is never an issues in India where roads are blocked for VIPs to travel and ambulances have to way to rush patients to hospitals. This time around, West Bengal authorities have said they have received no assistance from New Delhi. This is shorthand for accepting they are unprepared to face such man-made tragedies and accidents.

In the din and grandstanding, there is a point to the TMC’s ire and their allegations against 34- years of CPI (M) rule is not unfounded. In fact, Kolkata is a prime example of what faux leftists and their supercilious strategies can do to a state that was once was once India’s economic hub. This is what The Telegraph wrote about the ruin of Kolkata and West Bengal when the CPI-M-led government exited in 2011. “The Left front government turned Bengal into a one-city state. The first thing the Left Front government did after coming to power was to expand the geographical spread of the city by adding 41 wards of Behala, Garden Reach and Jadavpur. The move was aimed at securing Kolkata as a Left stronghold by adding wards where it had always enjoyed majority. An unplanned real estate boom started in areas as Left leaders turned a blind eye to the phenomena of filling ponds and water bodies. Buildings came up in these areas but no support infrastructure – road and sewer lines – was created. The Left civic bodies did little to clear the slums – the city has over 4,900 slums – as slum-dwellers emerged as the main vote bank for the front. Another populist move was giving the hawkers a free run on the pavements that further shrank the city’s road-space. Instead of working on a proper urban transportation plan, the Left government introduced auto-rickshaws to the streets of Kolkata that added to the chaos and poisoned the air.”

This does not in anyway take away from the responsibility of the TMC which is turning this tragedy into an electoral issue. The trajectory of the blame game is unfortunately as insensitive as attitude to lost human lives and threats of worse to come. What is the message our elected representatives are sending us ? That our streets and buildings are dangerous and too bad if we are crushed as we go about our daily lives?

Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had earned the ire of the city’ intellectuals when he had said Kolkata was a dying city. He had spoken the bitter truth at the turn of the last century. Half a century later, nothing has changed.


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