Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Corrupt system, corrupt society
66 die in Delhi house collapse. Does anybody care?
On Monday night a five-storey illegally constructed residential building in east Delhi came crashing down like a house of cards. By Tuesday, the death toll had mounted to 66.
The disaster occurred in the congested, filthy trans-Yamuna area of India's national capital. The parliamentary constituency of East Delhi is represented by Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit's son, Sandeep Dikshit, of the Congress.
Most residents are immigrants, a majority from Bihar. East Delhi 'colonies', which are large, sprawling urban slums with poor sanitation, near non-existent civic amenities, prolonged power cuts, poor water supply, offer cheap accommodation. Vast stretches of east Delhi have become a ghetto with over-flowing open drains, piles of festering garbage and potholed roads, for immigrants.
The building that collapsed stood a short distance from the 'world class' CWG Games Village. Lakshmi Nagar, and not the tinsel-and-glitter CWG facilities, presents the true face of Delhi.
Sheila Dikshit has washed her hands of any responsibility and slyly passed on the buck to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi where the BJP has a majority. What is not mentioned is that councillors have no executive authority which is vested with the Commissioner who reports to the Lt-Governor of Delhi.
MCD is a den of vice where corrupt babus and venal 'engineers' rule the roast. It's a babu-engineer-land mafia-developer-politician nexus at work. They are a law unto themselves. MCD exemplifies the cash-and-carry culture of Delhi.
But political parties are not free of blame either. Before elections, politicians promise to 'regularise' unauthorised colonies. The Congress, which for long has flourished on 'jhuggi-jhonpri' votes in Delhi, has mastered the art of 'regularising' unauthorised colonies. So its promise carries greater weight.
Before last year's Assembly election, Sheila Dikshit had promised to 'regularise' 1,200 of Delhi's 1,600 unauthorised colonies with illegally constructed buildings violating basic norms required for MCD sanction. The so-called 'Residents Welfare Associations' of these unauthorised colonies were given 'provisional certificates'. After the election, which the Congress won, the list was trimmed to 622.
Every time questions are asked as to why action is not being initiated against unauthorised colonies with illegal buildings, a counter-question is posed: Where will the residents go? That's a neat trick. Grab land, build houses which are death traps, rent them out to immigrants looking for cheap accommodation or sell floors to those looking for cheap housing or benami property, and voila, nobody can touch you.
Human life in India has no value attached to it. Nobody will be held accountable for these terrible deaths. To use a cliche, no heads will roll.
Those who pretend concern over corruption would do well to ponder over this: The loot at the top -- 2G Spectrum scam, Adarsh Housing Society scam, CWG scam -- symbolise the rotten icing on a rotten cake. As a nation, as a society, we are thoroughly corrupt. Or else the sprawling slums of east Delhi, which are loftily described as 'colonies', would not have existed.