Sunday, September 14, 2008

Being Responsible

The Delhi blasts brought a lot to the forefront. It raised the typical debates surrounding why the government didn't bother to respond to the intelligence reports that they received, why are the Muslim extremist outfits so agitated, does violence help, is our infrastructure in place to handle such situations, are we making enough noise about such incidents (look at London, Australia, US of A and the noise they make for every misplaced whimper) and in all this, what should we do.

I tend to be rather laid back about these things ever since I figured out that violence doesn't help (which doesn't mean I manage to escape volubly violent outbursts). I do not believe in non-violence, but I tend to look at things with a rather fine-its-done-what-should-we-do-now kind of eyes. My sister is not me.

My sister and I have been discussing things since last evening and today morning she couldn't help shout her frustration over the Indian telecommunication miracle. I tend to lower the volume of my mobile whenever I have to speak to her, but today her volume was totally justified. She was rather annoyed at the way the hospital staff at AIIMS handled a man's enquiry into the whereabouts of his relative. Apparently, he was tossed around with no concrete information and finally gathered all the required news from the TV in one of the hospitals before reaching the right hospital where his relative had already succumbed to injuries.

"E, what the hell is happening to the world!?"
"Going to the dogs?"
"Shut up, and all of us will only be concerned when things happen to us and only when our near ones are the victims."
I couldn't help realising the truth in that, though my mind flashed back to the time when my father died in the Poonam Chambers collapse more than a decade ago. I was relatively calm then and didn't consider the option of suing the builders or anyone like that. Nevertheless, my sister's point was valid.
"I agree, because not everyone has the capacity to be concerned about everything that happens on earth. It is simply not sustainable. Everyone picks a few things and watches over them carefully."
"But everyone surely has also picked their kith and kin!"
"I suppose so."
"Life has become cheap and disposable in India, E!"
With over a billion people here, that was inevitable. In a place where I meet a human being once every 10 miles, I might value his/her presence. When I meet a new human being every 10 milliseconds I do not think I will consider them special or something like that. People treat trees the same way, and water and nearly everything else. No wonder folks in the West and cold countries strip down to the most permitted by prevalent statutes of decency and bask in the Sun which any Indian has had enough of. My sister continued:
"10 people die here and another 10 die there, and no one cares."
"Hmmm."
"And what do we people do? Sit on our arse and watch TV."
I wanted to inform her that I do not watch TV but thought it inappropriate a confession.
"Damn it, E! We were not educated to watch all this and talk to each other over the phone about it. We should be doing something. We have to."

Hence, I am here writing this post. My education has only given me the skill to think and write (and of course, read. Gosh! I sound like Siddhartha!!). I do not think the bombings are going to stop. I do not think Muslims are bad. I do not think the Muslim extremists are going to stop their maddening rush to eliminate all and sundry and probably have a few outfits surviving before they fight amongst themselves to figure out whose Allah is better and destroy themselves. I do not think that is a bad idea. Human beings are inherently destructive and hence, all that they do (and sometimes, with the best intentions) will go wrong! The human specie is the most inhuman one in that it is the only specie which builds up arsenal to destroy itself. No other living specie does that. I will reserve my comments about dinosaurs, though I believe they were far more wise than present day human beings. Human beings are worse than viruses (please correct yourself, Agent Smith) since viruses do not destroy themselves. I also believe viruses have ethics.

Nevertheless, I have been educated by such human beings so it makes sense to offer them the fruits of my thoughts.

We need the following facilities built into all the cities of a country (of course, prioritising them will help):
  1. Risk alarm buttons. These large red buttons should be available at every traffic signal post. This automatically triggers necessary plans to divert traffic from the sensitive area and also alerts the police to reach the spot. Activating them is not a trivial brush of the elbow.
  2. Ambulances equipped with photo equipment. Ambulances servicing such affected areas should have equipment to capture the victim's profile from various angles including any identifying objects possessed by the victim. These images will be transmitted to all police stations immediately allowing them to create charts with these images, the hospital deploying the ambulances and names of persons to contact. If any information about the victim's family can be obtained, then they should be brought to the hospital rather than wait for them to find out on their own.
  3. Single identifying card. Every individual should possess a single identifying card (with a microchip in it). This card is tied in with the person's fingerprint and DNA sample. This card cannot be used for any monetary transaction although it can (and should be) used for identification when creating bank accounts, demat accounts, insurance policies, purchase of assets (mobile or immovable), passport issuance, etc. Hence, damages due to this card are negligible. This card will contain the entire history of the person's interaction with the government and monetary institutions including all his personal contact details and emergency information. If this card (even a photocopy) is found on the victim's body, then it can be used (only by the internal security service's authorised personnel) to contact his family/relatives/friends immediately and they can be brought to the location asap. I have always believed that this sort of a card is vital to all citizens of a country though it treads a very thin line between good use and a threat to privacy. I will not address those issues here.
  4. Bomb containment units. These will be small dome like structures built with high tensile metal fibres and meshed with carbon fibres to provide the strength required to mitigate explosions. Every commercial enterprise and every public centre will be provided with several of these. On pulling a chord, these units will expand into domes (like the dome shaped lampshades that one finds nowadays) and can be used to cover suspicious objects. Of course, the mouth of these domes would be flexible to accommodate different sized/shaped objects. If sealed properly to the ground they can minimise the impact of explosion (well, there is always a limit to what can be achieved. I do not imagine them doing The Mask like thing with a million stick time-bomb!!). These units can also be designed to slowly contract over the object and essentially seal it off (effectively swallowing the objects, doing The Mask like thing which I just said is not to be imagined!). If there are chemicals that can be used to diffuse standard explosive devices then these units can be equipped to release them in a calculated manner over the object that they contain. No prior training is required to handle these units. People will simply have to treat the situation like trapping a mouse by covering it with a basket. The unit should take of the rest.
  5. One set of emergency numbers irrespective of technology used (landline, mobile, WLL) or service provider.
  6. Deploy an ambulance for every 1 km radius cell (a city will have to be divided into cells like how mobile companies do). These could be ambulances deployed by local hospitals in addition to ones put into service by the government. 
One thing we all need to realise is that, we cannot eliminate such incidents. Simply not possible. We can only take steps to make it extremely difficult to plan such things. Similarly, we can only take steps to make the aftermath less messy.

Steps to discourage such plans:
  1. With the single identification card, people can track the history of tenants and be forewarned about people with a dubious and/or criminal history. Those affiliated to extremist outfits can also be identified. Every landlord must register the card ID of the tenants he keeps in his house irrespective of age, sex and caste. Hostels are also required to do the same. Hence, electricity/telephone/gas bills paid by anyone other than the landlord or the identified tenants will flag a situation of violation of rules. The landlord need not have to quote the rental value or anything like that while registering the tenants. Landlords should also regularly check the premises that they have rented out (standard rental agreements permit such acts) and notify the zonal rental body that things seemed normal. This makes the landlord responsible for the people he houses.
  2. Chemicals required for such explosive devices as well as chemicals that can be used to prepare chemicals required for such explosive devices must be tracked by each state government. Selling them in small quantities and the like should not be permitted or be allowed after due authorisation.
  3. People entering public utility spaces (bus stands, railway stations, airports) must be scanned thoroughly like during baggage check. I find a lot of the personnel just running a ladle like contraption all over me and not bothering about the various beeps that are sounded. I realise those beeps keep sounding even after I leave!! We need software to better recognise suspicious objects and maybe chemical sniffers to smell out any particularly eyebrow-raising substances.
  4. We need better and more reliable red-alert notification systems. Undoubtedly, there will be pranksters making a mess of it, but we need to make it better and treat each of them equally seriously. We could actually build systems to call another nearby phone to ratify the statements of the complainant (oh! and yes, calling the person they are complaining about is a sure no-no!!).
  5. We definitely need better and more humane teams to tackle such situations. We need them to appear quickly, too. They must be educated (no, not the kinds which let you talk over telephones about disaster management) about how to handle such situations and reduce panic attacks.
  6. We need to eliminate spaces where explosives can be slipped in unnoticed. Large garbage dumps or open-air godowns in market areas and the like must be eliminated.
  7. Understand and appreciate that panic is bloody contagious. Educate people about it. Run several drills in public areas so that people get familiarised with what needs to be done.

Things to make the aftermath less messy:
  1. Have large bunkers (maybe underground) where people can go and stay till the situation is restored to normalcy. This is like what I read about the WW-II days when there were bomb-shelters. I am sure these bombs are not half as good as the ones the Nazis dropped, though I realise that no shelter is safe from the ones the godforsaken Americans dropped on Japan! People who are in the area where there is a confusion can swipe their card at the entrance of such bunkers and enter them. There will be limited seats in each bunker thereby avoiding situations of death by asphyxiation. People simply have to go to the next bunker. How? Read on.
  2. When the red buttons on the signal lights are hit, indicator lights along the roofs of shops will be switched on to direct people to the nearest bunkers (like on the flights, though they are to the nearest exit). Once a bunker reaches capacity, the indicators to that bunker are switched off and people are informed to head to another bunker. I know I am assuming sensible and considerate people who will follow instructions given to them, but if I am to design for the current lot of human beings (or at least the ones I have met on the street) then I am out of ideas!!
  3. People staying back to assist victims can dial a particular number from their mobile (and the number is the same irrespective of service provider! Gosh! I wish some day these dumbos will realise that their war for bandwidth should not make life difficult for the consumer. We need one set of emergency numbers to call from mobile, landline and WLLs irrespective of service provider) and they are on a hot connection with paramedics and internal security service. They will be constantly guided and encouraged to maintain the situation at near-normalcy. Handling victims will also be more informed.
  4. Every body removed from the site will be identified using the single card (if carried by the victim) and/or photographs taken by the internal security personnel and/or paramedics. These will be uploaded immediately to a central location from which it can be beamed across television channels and hospitals and any other public location. 
  5. Hitting the red button will also send out alerts throughout the city and citizens will be requested to keep off common areas and/or enter bunkers. Speaker systems will be activated to notify citizens of the location(s) of unrest.
  6. Ambulances from 5 nearby cells should immediately rush to the spot and provide feedback to ambulances in the next circle of cells. If the damage is huge then it makes sense to move more ambulances to the affected cell without moving all of them there as a subsequent explosion elsewhere would result in chaos. I have an algorithm which these ambulances could use in order to move in a pattern which allows least confusion. Will put that out sometime soon.
  7. Identified victims' family members must be contacted immediately and brought to the respective hospital where the victim is. Internal security service should clearly keep track of "unclaimed" victims so that they can send out more identification information just for them.
  8. Every hospital must deploy sufficient personnel as the points of first interaction for outsiders. These personnel will be responsible for establishing calm, streamlining information, directing the victims family, providing the complete and honest information about the sequence of steps taken to ensure the safety of the victim, empathising with them, sharing their concerns and allying them without being rude or clinical.
  9. Traffic should be redirected and slowly brought to a halt (if deemed appropriate) based on information made available over the internal security service network. There should be some "clean" areas earmarked in cities where no "object" can be placed (like an open ground or a large parking lot) and vehicles should be ushered into such areas, thereby taking the load off the main roads.
  10. Parking vehicles along the pavements before entering nearby bunkers should be considered ok on broad roads. In narrow lanes, traffic should be moved quickly and into less packed areas. Slowly vehicles should be visible only on broad roads and in "clean" areas till the internal security service gives a "all-clear" signal.
  11. Reporters and camera-crews should be kept outside the affected cell in order to reduce the confusion in the cell. They are not important and are of no help. Information is anyway being gathered and passed around by the paramedics and internal security service. Guys, please don't get adventurous and sneak under the ropes!! I hope someone issues a shoot at sight order on these guys!!!
  12. People in the bunkers are good people because they are not adding to the confusion. They need to be constantly informed of what is happening outside. They can also swipe their cards in slots placed in the bunker and their family and friends will be informed of their location and safety. The bunkers will seal off all mobile signals and only allow calls to be made to the internal security service and other emergency numbers from the telephone units on the walls of the bunkers. Yes, the bunkers are well lit. You can meditate in there or read a book. Yes, even if it is One Night at a ...

I think I will now throw this post open to more ideas and comments from readers. If you think this makes sense and you can pass it around, then please do so (no, I never cared about increasing readership for this blog. If I did, I would write about Ms. Sherawat's assets or simply keep providing links to other webpages. BTW, zen koans and sonnets never make for wide reading). If you know someone in the political circle and you think that this might get them thinking (oxymoron?) then please do pass it on to them. I wish some more ideas could be rolled into this post.

Of course, there are tonnes of way in which one could still blow up a section of the city (or the whole city if your city is as small as Mysore or Madurai). Here are some of them:

  1. Simply load your car with tonnes of explosives and get trapped in the traffic on M.G.Road in Bangalore. Step out (everyone seems to like doing that), and disappear. Blow your car to smithereens.
  2. Keep filling traffic cones with explosives and then blow a whole road and some more.
  3. Garbage disposal trucks are another sweet container of bombs
  4. Use a whole series of parked cars as explosives (well, they contain enough petrol and tin for a similar effect)
  5. Let flutter a whole bunch of pigeons with bombs stuck... sheesh! Sick. Please don't. Kill human beings if you want, but not animals and birds! Whoever-you-are, please!
Trust me, there are tens of thousands of ways of undoing all the precaution that one might observe. So please never assume that you are totally taken care of. If you are married, you will know what I mean!! :-D

At the end of the day, I still wonder what are people trying to achieve! If attention is what they want, I am sure Mamata B is doing something enough to get it without making a noise (and given that they are fasting or something like that, other noises are also eliminated). If they want a country to themselves, we should allow them a chance to come up with a clear cut 15 year plan on all fronts of administration. If they can convince a panel of experts and also convince them as to why things are different and unacceptable now, then they can have their piece of land. Why not? If they mean good, then let them do good. But why kill someone whom nobody knows!? Kill a bunch of politicians and/or filmstars and/or sportsmen and/or some bigger criminals, and it would still be pointless. So don't kill. Just give birth to less children!!

Here is my suggestion to terrorists. If you want to be heard, then try one of these things:
  1. Adopt a whole thousand children. Inform the government about your adoption. Teach them about what you believe in and that they should also adopt another thousand each and take care of them. One day, when you cannot accept the way you are being treated, walk over to the parliament (now you are a big force) and tell them that you will fast unto death. Well, you were planning to blow yourselves, right? Die slowly and in a more decent manner. I am sure your words will be heard and you will not have your visa cancelled anywhere on earth. As a matter of fact, you are more likely to gain greater support from people who simply want to support some soft spoken person.
  2. Monopolise a segment of the economy. Let's say you take up iron ore mining and processing. Let your entire outfit be engaged in just that activity. May your outfit be the only ones who will produce iron in this country (highly unlikely, but let's just ponder over that). Tomorrow, when you cannot accept the way you are being treated, then increase the prices ten-folds in order to compensate for the ill-treatment that you are receiving (come on, let's be honest. Are you really being ill-treated?). The government will simply have to discuss things with you.
  3. Spend the money on advertisements and hoardings where you can clearly state and graphically depict the atrocities mete out to you. Buy airtime on radio channels. Have centre-page articles in the leading newspapers (no, you cannot convince ToI to sell you page3 space) to represent your case. Speaking of cases...
  4. Educate your outfit to become lawyers so that they can create infinite petitions against the government and make their life hell till they behave decently and treat you properly.
  5. Don't hijack planes or bomb them. Just wear stinking old clothes or carry rotten food. People on the flight (and on the next trip) will not want to travel in those planes. Airline companies will pressurise governments into talking to you. 
  6. Basically, don't kill people or cause bloodshed. Just make life difficult for people till they listen to you. But before you do that, be sure you have a valid case, and remember that eliminating the "others" is not the best way to solve any problem that you might have. You might be the "others" for someone else. Actually, you are the "others" for everyone but you.

Dear Sis,
I think I am done doing what my education has skilled me for. And I still did it sitting on my arse! No, I do not watch TV.

1 comment:

  1. Parvati5:58 PM

    Exhaustive, extensive and a very sincere undertaking - this post of yours.

    You seem to be a good man with an intelligence to make the good happen too!

    #And...now...for some sonnets and zen koans please :-D?

    ReplyDelete