I remember the night of 2nd December 1984 for two reasons –firstly, for the great relief, we – the first year students got because of the Fresher’s Night – marking the end of the long testing period of ragging. And secondly, for the worst-ever industrial accident of our times – the Bhopal Gas tragedy!
In the morning of 3rd December 1984 – we woke up relaxed – as ragging period was over! Being Monday, we had our classes and we were looking forward for attending our classes and going around the college without any fear of seniors. But, we saw something very unusual– number of local men, women, children were seen in our campus – confused and exhausted. Only then did we know about the unfortunate tragedy that had struck Bhopal. While we were celebrating our newly found freedom, thousands died and thousands were fighting an invisible enemy that was choking them to death. We remained unaffected primarily because of the wind direction (and also our college MACT – now MANIT- is far and located on a hill).
On knowing about the extent of tragedy thru Radio and Doordarshan, we all decided to skip college and rushed to the nearby hospitals. I still remember my visit to Gandhi Medical College, Bhopal with my friends on 3rd December 1984 – the chaos in the campus with hundreds of men and women, young and old, some dead and some writhing in pain with badly swollen red eyes crying for their lives– still make me shudder with pain. Same was the situation at Hamidia Hospital and other hospitals that our college mates visited to help the victims. The previous night i.e. on 2nd December 1984 – the leakage of Methyl Isocyanate (MIC) gas from Union Carbide proved too costly for many precious lives. Thousands died, thousands who could survive still suffer from severe ailments and it is learnt that a large number of mothers who were exposed to MIC gave birth to babies with congenital defects! Images of truckloads of dead bodies that I saw, still remains etched deeply in my memory. It hurt me, I still feel the pain.
It is learnt that on investigation it was found that scheduled maintenance, routine inspection, timely action would have saved these lives! Precautions -as simple as that! Alas, we do not learn!
Such accidents keep on happening under different settings, may be at different scales – killing one or ten or more – in a small explosion at one of the small crackers factory of Sivakasi or the big ones that shook Jaipur due to fire in IOC depot or the landslides of various magnitudes that keep taking place along the rail and road routes in hilly terrain. All such accidents could be prevented, provided we learnt from the past experiences.
Only we are to be blamed for the recent tragedy at Kedarnath and other parts of Uttarakhand – cloud bursts and landslides in hilly areas are known phenomena. Hence, any development plan in such area must take care of such natural events and happenings and should be planned for the worst. But, who has the time to devote time for such things.
As third world country, for India and Indians – money is precious and lives are cheap. Money has to be minted at any cost – be it at the individual level, municipality level, district level, state level or national level – forgetting the safety aspects and lives of common citizens. The ordinary lives are in such a large number that lives lost in such accidents do not matter much apart from making headlines and catching attention in a sensational fashion by the electronic media only until it sells and grabs the desired TRPs.
In the last three years, I have been visiting Himachal Pradesh very frequently and during these visits during summer, monsoon and winter – one thing has been common – landslides along the road! Within a stretch of say sixty kilometres of hilly track that I travel by road, during summer landslides are very occasional and at much smaller scale, in monsoons I have witnessed on an average four to five landslides of enough magnitude to shake your confidence and during winters the frequency and magnitude again reduces. During these visits, what I have noticed is that the hills are primarily of soil embedded with rounded gravels of varying sizes – typical of those found on the riverbed and hence, these hills are not rock solid but loose and very much susceptible to landslides especially during the monsoon. As far as my understanding goes, these hills need lot of support at the denuded edges in order to support their own weight and minimize landslides. My common sense says that geographically speaking these hills are not made of volcanic eruptions but out of the movement of section of the earth forcing the planes and riverbed into various folds and bends exposing years and years of deposits made on the riverbed in multi layers to rise high and take shape of hills. On the denuded side of the hills – along the serpentine roads – where the hills have been cut to make space for the road, one can see from a distance a number of parallel layers one over the other tilted and rising from the ground to form the hill. These hills are fine examples for the geography teachers to educate their school students about the sedimentation process and faults and folds.
While it is interesting to see and appreciate these layers as a layman, what disturbs me is that barring some reinforced stretches along the open side of the road; the other side where the hills have been cut to make space for the road remains exposed for most of the stretch. This makes them highly susceptible for landslides during the monsoon as the exposed side of these hills become weak because of exposure to rains and they start falling under their own weight.
I wonder why the reinforcement of exposed side of the hills have been overlooked? May be because no civil engineer or the government gave it a thought? It is highly improbable. High costs could be one reason. Nevertheless, that is not a good enough reason to barter for human lives and willfully play with the environment.
The tragedy that struck Uttarakhand as a result of bad weather in the month of June 2013 got more pronounced and deadly just because of the mindless development (sic) of the hills – to mint money – at all levels. Had there been no construction alongside the riverbanks, had there been reinforcements along the denuded side of the hills, had there been genuine concern for the environment, had there been contented greed and had there been some consideration for human lives – such devastation could have been avoided.
Now, whatever relief package is announced, Uttarakhand won’t be same. Post this tragedy, the roads may be rebuilt, the hotels may again rise, the tourists may again flock to the revered Kedarnath Temple, the elections may be won, money would be minted at different levels and those who didn’t lose anything in this tragedy may forget all this after a while. However, the damages that environment has suffered, thousands of lives that perished, thousands of those who lost their near and dear ones, their pain, their suffering cannot be reversed!
It is high time that the Central and State governments review the environmental and development related policies, monitor them, implement them with sincerity – without looking for short term gains. Today, in the name of development – whatever is being done is not enough. All the stakeholders need to rise above their petty personal gains and contribute whole heartedly to the cause of the common people and the environment. First, we should develop as a responsible citizen – the prime requirement to collectively develop as a Nation.
My heart goes out to all the lives that perished and their aggrieved family members. May your sacrifice help us in waking up from the deep slumber! Let us rise!
Madhukar Mohan, Secretary, ASTO-Ahmedabad
Dear Esteemed Members of ASTO,
We are excited to launch ‘VIBES’ – the Blog of ASTO-Ahmedabad. It is first of kind among the various units of ASTO. It is a platform where we can share our views on various issues that are of general interest to our members. Our members can share their own views thru the comments feature. We invite your constructive suggestions and criticisms too. Our only request is that let this platform be a pious platform and hence comments targeting a person, use of abusive language and anything that is against the interest of ONGC and ASTO – must be avoided.
ASTO: 2011-13 is a new beginning for ASTO, we may say, a new birth after the unfortunate de-recognition in 2009! It becomes our moral responsibility to make it gain enough strength, to make it a voice for the officers community, to make it an association with meaningful agenda and to work with sincerity for a better organisation. Hence, we must tread with lot of caution, with commitment and compassion.
Among the various initiatives that we have taken, we take special pride in taking the initiatives of – conducting Blood Donation Camp on every ONGC Day, i.e. every 14th August and conducting of Knowledge Sharing Sessions at intervals. We could take this decision and execute it successfully because of your unstinted support and continued guidance. We wish that the initiatives taken by us continue!
Our idea for centralised pay anomaly settlement has been implemented and well appreciated by one and all. We pushed forward for ‘upgrardation’ and we succeeded. Similarly, on other issues too we are working for such amicable solutions.
It has had been our endeavour to communicate with you, to share with you the issues of general interest. We had been issuing ‘Communiqués’ to make you aware of the developments at various front. VIBES – this blog – will help us to regularly keep in touch with you and share the mood, feelings, ideas and opinions on various issues.
As you are aware, VIBES has the synonyms – vibrations, feelings, atmosphere, ambience, sensations – and it would be our effort that our blog reflects ASTO-Ahmedabad in true spirit.
With best wishes and kind regards.