It was disgusting to watch the news hour debate with Arnab (who I don’t have any liking for, but for a change was spot on), especially our wonderful ex-minister and govt. spokesperson Mr. SN Patro who had his foot firmly in his mouth and was therefore groaning, and not talking. It badly exposes the morons that run the Naveen Patnaik government, the powerful individuals and lobbyists who run hospitals, malls and other prominent buildings and the dysfunctional idiots that call themselves the fire safety department.

Forget SUM, most of the hospitals in the state that I have been or not been to (SPARSH Hospitals in Shahid Nagar is a particularly beautiful example) and several major buildings in the city have clearly violated every single building code in broad daylight. Ridiculously, the govt. at regular intervals talks about demolishing some of them (e.g. Maruti Mall, Pantaloons, Pal Heights) but absolutely nothing happens. Things run as usual with every rascal feeding the other and all of them scratching each other’s backs.

No amount of canvassing, showing fellow-feeling for the management and administration, showing odia pride, hating the state being shown in poor light, denouncing the “presstitutes” for only selective reporting, pointing fingers at the fire department for no periodic review or clear guidelines, showing displeasure about how all the good work the hospital did in bringing healthcare to poor people and how they showed exemplary courage in evacuating people is going to explain how – especially after something as eye-opening and as devastating as AMRI Kolkata took place — a hospital can run an ICU with close to nil fire-fighting readiness.

Screw the fire department and their clearance. Did the Bhubaneswar-based hospital make sure that in case a fire, at least they have adequate preparation? No. An emphatic NO. If hospitals with already sick and immobile people are a particularly vulnerable place, why then it’s not criminal negligence on the part of every single person responsible from top to bottom, especially the key decision makers?

Many sympathizers, including those associated closely with the institute speak about where were we when other buildings came up and other hospitals were allowed to run. Hah! Thousands of things are wrong in the country. Hence asking someone where they were when other wrongs were allowed is not only stupid and illogical, it’s reeks of deliberate diversionary manoeuvre often employed by politicians of the country.

At least in this tragedy, every single person related to fire safety decision-making (the hospital management and fire department officials included) needs to be rounded up and made to pay. This is no bad luck, no valiant effort in spite of difficulties, none of that nonsense. One can reserve all that for an award later. This is clearly a case of criminal, culpable homicide. And should be treated as such. Anything short of that is only a mockery of justice.

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