India’s self goal

Last week I happened to be at the Bullet Proof investment seminar at Chennai and had the pleasure of listening to the wisdom of Nilesh Shah. He bought out very interesting stats to showcase that India will finally grow after the painful transition from the economy from informal to formal.He ended the talk in raising a very important point saying the only thing which will holds back India from growing is us hitting a self goals by promoting the wrong kind of role models.As a nation we did not have enough self pride in the past and this has to change for us to break free and grow without hindrances.

Ghulam Dastagir -Forgotten Hero of Bhopal

Ghulam Dastagir was the assistant station master on that fateful night in Bhopal when the gas tragedy stuck at Bhopal. The gas leak had occurred without a warning (no siren was blown to indicate danger) and thus no one knew that there is a gas leak which was fatal in nature.In those days there were no means of communicating such warnings and no mobile phones either for the message to spread.He sensed something is a miss as he felt a burning sensation in his eyes and a itching sensation in his throat. He did an unthinkable thing for a railway employee, sensing trouble he asked the jam-packed Gorakhpur-Kanpur Express to leave the station 20 mins before the scheduled departure. This was the first time a railway train atually left ahead of schedule. All his staff refused saying that this can’t be done as it has never happened, to which he said that he is willing to take personal responsibility on this. As the gas was enveloping  the station he was finding it difficult to breathe but he ensured that he reached out to all station masters nearby and ensured that no train entered Bhopal during that night.His own family was staying close by in a railway quarters , without caring for their safety he choose to remain at the station to help passengers trying to flee the gas. Soon the station became hospital ward where doctors attended to the people impacted by the gas. His act of selfless compassion saved 1000s of more lives that night. Bhopal is a very important junction through which 100s of trains flowed even in 1984. Ghulam was devastated by this personally,one of his sons died on the night of the tragedy and another developed a lifelong skin infection. Dastagir himself spent his last 19 years shuttling  in and out of hospitals; he developed a painful growth in the throat due to prolonged exposure to toxic fumes. When he finally died he was not even acknowledged and even the memorial which was built for the victims of the gas tragedy does not mention his name because he died several years later. But what did we do with the lawyer who represented Union carbide and let them go scot free for mass murder ?

Fali  Sam Nariman – Padma Vibushan did he deserve it ?

I am sure we would have heard about Fali Nariman one of the most eminent advocate who is respected for his opinions and is seen as the expert on judicial aspects. He was conferred upon  by the second highest civilian award of Padma Vibushan recently. He may be a very eminent lawyer but he was the one who represented Union Carbide in the courts and ensured that their civil liabilities were set to $470 million and also ensured that Warren Anderson (the CEO of Union carbide in India during the Bhopal gas tragedy) was let off and allowed to leave India. The role which he played is an important one and he has himself expressed regret for having fought that case in his later years.But still he is a revered figure on legal matters and was conferred the nation’s second highest civilian award!

There are several stories on why Union Carbide and Warren Anderson were let off and there may have been many people who have contributed to it including the then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. Am not talking about those but as a country we have done yourself injustice by awarding ‘Padma Vibhusan’ to a lawyer who helped Union Carbide get away with mass murder and not even acknowledge Ghulam who laid down his life to save 1000s of lives on that fateful night!Feel sad that we let this happen, least we can do is to give him recognition for what he did ? Will we as a country raise do the right thing ?

PS: Can we help raise awareness by tweeting about this story to railway minister Piyush Goyal .

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