0-for-3 and counting

It’s been a poor start to the year for West Bengal.  A 14-story building used as a market for traders of all sorts caught fire and burned for nearly 4 days.  The building was 4 stories higher than permissible and who knows how much money passed hands in its illegal construction.  Miraculously, just one died, but the military had to be called in to help put out the fire.  Lack of water, lack of equipment…

If that wasn’t enough, it appears that H5N1, which is better known as Avian Influenza, which in turn is better known as bird flu, has finally appeared in W. Bengal.  And it’s spreading from the rural districts.  The newspapers, in a mix of delight and rage, are publishing photo after photo of dead chickens in the hands of children and villagers.  The response by the government has been nothing short of grim.  UNICEF even called us to participate in a meeting on Monday about it.  Looks like no one is feeling confident that the govt. can handle this.  Villagers are preventing birds from being destroyed because they say they won’t see any of the money the government is promising as compensation.  Smart people, those ones…

On top of that, something exploded on Shakespeare Sarani, about 200 meters from the US Consulate, shattering glass at the Nagaland House and Deutsche Bank.  Five people injured and the police have absolutely no clue as to what caused it.  First it was a blown transformer, then it was a bomb, then it was an underground gas or electric line, and now the VP is visiting so who has time for further investigation?

All this might be normal life in a populous Indian state, but you can’t but help feeling that the people bearing the brunt of the government’s unpreparedness, plodding attitude, and habit of diverting responsibility as their default response are those with no voice and no money.  Things happen, people die, but honestly, if anyone making more than $10,000/yr ($USD) had been impacted, you’d find some CPM heads rolling.  At some point it does become about the value of a life.


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