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No end to a city’s woes

Musings by Shekhar Nambiar

The troubles for Kochi-Ernakulam seem to be continuing, with no end in sight to the people’s or the state’s woes.

It seems to be a tale of lopsided priorities and policies. Not a day passes without some story or the other about nepotism, corruption and police highhandedness, even brutality.

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Much as I wanted to desist from writing anything about the Kochi conflagration, the fire that broke out in Brahmapuram on Sunday, March 26, the second in two weeks, has forced me to do otherwise. 

Fire tender employees dousing the fire

Second fire

Over 20 fire tenders were pressed into service on Sunday to douse the fire in Sector 1 of the plant and prevent it going out of control.

There have been charges levelled by political parties against one another, including the contractor in charge of the waste plant being a fellow traveller, or the son of a party man.

The second fire this week is reason enough to believe the utter inability of the administration to provide a reasonable assurance to people and their wellbeing.

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Political insensitivity 

Let us for a moment forget the allegations and counter-allegations. The political class is insensitive to people’s health concerns and throws caution to the winds every time fire and smoke billow out and pollute large parts of the city. Only this time, the smoke spread eastward to Puthencruz and beyond to Muvattupuzha. What’s more the inquiry promised by the state government has not seen the light of day yet. It would seem that the National Green Tribunal’s fine of Rs 100crores imposed following the first fire has had no effect on the administration.

If reports are to be believed, the technology used in the waste plant, and the company itself, had been questioned earlier by the Kannur and Kollam city Corporations, the latter under the control of the state’s ruling party.

Chopper crash

Ernakulam and Kochi, no doubt, have been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Around noon, also on Sunday, a helicopter of the Coast Guard on a training flight from its hub at Nedumbassery CIAL airport abruptly lost control, nose-dived and crashed on the tarmac. There were three crew members in the helicopter, all fortunately understood to have escaped without major injuries. This brings us to the issue of the accidents plaguing services’ aircrafts. Could it be that they lack halfway houses for pilots or the ground staff.

Custodial death in Tripunithura

Police brutality

Close to Brahmapuram, in Tripunithura, and a little before the fire came the news of a custodial death of a law-abiding citizen Manoharan.

A local shopkeeper, he was returning home to his two little children and wife when a police party accosted him, suspecting him to be drunk and driving.

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Eyewitness accounts say that Manoharan was not drunk, and despite all his pleas and protestations, was trashed mercilessly, bundled into the patrol van, and taken to the nearby Hill Palace police station. Beaten black and blue, the victim collapsed and died before receiving any medical attention.

The incident sent shockwaves in the community with hundreds thronging the streets to pay their last respects to Manoharan.

This, in a state with hundred percent literacy, a socialist outlook and a highly conscious public. The system must hang its head in shame. The past few years have seen crimes and police brutality skyrocket, scarcely a day passing without violent crime being reported from different parts of the state. 

The irony is that law and order is under the Chief Minister, who holds the ‘home’ portfolio.

Elephant whishperers

Tailpiece 

As if all these are not enough for a state in trouble, an errant tusker Arikomban  has had forest officials and authorities worried in the ranges of Idukki district.

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The young tusker’s wild-elephant-run-rampant tactics have made the state glued to television news, as it strayed into tea estates and human-inhabited areas, refusing to move out. A court order prevents the rogue animal being caught until after a special hearing on March 29.

There’s probably more drama in store in the man-animal conflict. And quite in contradiction, the touching story of Raghu the baby elephant, nurtured and nursed by a tribal couple has warmed the cockles of many a heart around the world. The film The Elephant Whisperers tells the tale of a strong animal-human bond, and of the eventual relocation of Raghu to Mudhumalai National Park in Tamil Nadu. The film, of course, won the Oscar for the best documentary at the 95thAcademy Awards.

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Shekhar Nambiar
Shekhar Nambiar
Shekhar is a communications professional who has spent a good deal of time in international organizations and in the development sector. As he puts it, it's been an "exciting journey" for him, beginning his working life as a journalist, with some of the best editors and professionals, before venturing into public affairs and then forays in the private sector. He believes "every day brings new challenges, achievements and success, and the key is to play a small part in whatever it is that you're doing". He tries to keep pace with new tech, and learn a new word a day, of course, "Gen Z lingo!"

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