Lindsay Pereira: The answer is blowin' in the wind

Feb 20, 2016, 07:22 IST | Lindsay Pereira

Can’t find anyone to take the blame for the Make In India fire? How about the weather — after all, it’s been known to play spoilsport before

I’m pretty sure about what I would blame for the fire at the Make in Maharashtra event: the weather. It’s always been a bit of a spoilsport, consistently refusing to conform to official forecasts. It never rains when the Meteorological Department says it will, for instance, and ruins trips to the seashore by being windy when at least some of us would like it to be calm.

This is obviously why that evening of song and dance was ruined, and why business delegates from around the world were denied an evening of entertainment that would otherwise have convinced them to give us millions that could then be used to build useful things like statues and open-air gymnasiums.

Up in flames: Firefighters try to douse the massive fire that broke out at the Make In India event at Girgaum Chowpatty last Sunday. Pic/Bipin Kokate

The government can’t be blamed for this fire, obviously. Yes, the High Court did have a problem with the event, pointing out how a large gathering on the beach could obviously have adverse effects. What the Court fails to understand, however, is that minor things like adverse effects don’t matter when there are PR opportunities for a government to consider. Photo opportunities matter a lot more than the safety of people, simply because people who don’t die are people who have the ability to vote during the next elections. It’s this emphasis on humanity over business interests that make our Court look bad every single time.

The Court also said that beaches couldn’t be allowed to be damaged by the construction of a stage, backstage rooms and toilets, failing, once again, to understand that a stage for dancers is a lot more important than a beach, because the beach isn’t going to attract investments that can then be used to build hotels along other beaches. Another thing the Court failed to acknowledge is that we have never really had any respect for any of our beaches anyway, so why start now?

The Court also had a problem with the fact that Chowpatty, as an open area, could be difficult to regulate in case of any congregation, and that a misadventure could result in chaos, stampede and loss of human life — all solid proof that no one at the honourable Court has ever travelled by local train in Bombay, where chaos, stampede and the loss of human life are all possibilities even before one steps into a railway station. Also, when was the last time any state government took chaos or the loss of human life seriously anyway?

Finally, the Court pointed out that the area opposite the beach included a college and hospital, which was supposedly a silence zone. When was the last time anyone in Bombay turned to the areas around colleges or hospitals in search of silence? When, for instance, was the last time you were stuck in the traffic jam outside Lilavati Hospital that takes place every evening of every week?

So, naturally, the government simply cannot take the blame for this fire. It has reportedly blamed the event management firm, which says it followed all instructions from the fire department. The fire chief, on the other hand, says it didn’t give the company a clean chit. Someone has blamed the electrical contractor who did the wiring for the event, saying it was a short circuit that led to fire after gas leaked from the equipment that set off fireballs. Others believe a probe should establish whether the contractor did his job in haste and compromised on quality. I find this last bit interesting, because a walk down any road in Bombay ought to convince you that it was made in haste and compromised on quality, but we continue to get the same shoddy work for decades, nonetheless.

The art director says his team is not responsible for the fire, while the police say they will file an FIR only after the chief fire officer submits his report. Some say the fire department’s advice about firecrackers was ignored, which I may point out has been ignored in this country since the day we gained independence and the first batch of rockets from China were shipped in.

It happens all the time, whenever something goes wrong: no one can be found to take the blame. Accidents on the railways, missing ambulances, missing policemen, labourers falling off construction sites, motorcyclists dying on account of potholes — it’s never anyone’s fault. This fire isn’t about human error either, which is why I blame the weather and hope our honourable Chief Minister will consider having it banned. After all, bans are for our own good.

When he isn’t ranting about all things Mumbai, Lindsay Pereira can be almost sweet. He tweets @lindsaypereira

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