Is Morbi accident reflection of the rot of the Gujarat model?

morbi accident

The bridge collapse at Morbi in Gujarat killed over 140 people and many missing but no head has been rolled. According to reports there were 33 children aged between one to ten years. The 143 years old and 230 meters long suspension bridge was made during the British period. It was also claimed that the bridge was in an extremely bad conditions and a private contractor was asked to renovate it. The company was asked to complete it by December but the inauguration was advanced and we all know ‘why’. Elections in Himachal Pradesh have been declared. There is a gap between the voting and the results in that tiny state where results can easily be declared on the very next day but the election commission deliberately kept it like that because it will finally declare the dates for Gujarat polls but that would not happen unless all the programme the prime minister and union home minister Amit Shah are completed. Now the election commission has finally declared dates for Gujarat elections citing delay in the declaration because of the Morbi tragedy.

Now coming back to Morbi, we are informed that about seven persons have been arrested who include the clerk and other workers of the company. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was busy inaugurating various schemes in Gujarat and felt ‘pained’ to hear the deaths of innocent at the Morbi Bridge collapse but he did not bother to cancel his programmes. The lavishness with which these programmes were organised show the highest level of insensitivity at the time when the nation was moaning, the prime minister was participating in various event to promote his party and his personality.

While Modi was busy ‘electioneering’ in Gujarat, it was the manustream media that started building up another narrative. The shameless and thuggish ‘experts’ wanted people ‘not to politicise’ the issue. They have no courage to ask the prime minister to stop his political campaigns from the public funds in Gujarat but they continue to ask questions to people. A well-known thug on the prime time actually blamed people themselves for the collapse of the bridge. This is the man who give ample ‘wisdom’ to people on his prime-time programmes with one-point agenda to defame opponents of the prime minister and defend his most indefensible actions.

Look who was given the contract to repair the suspension bridge by the Morbi Municipality. You should not be surprised because that is the modus operandi being followed diligently for last so many years under Narendra Modi. It is the same method which make Anil Ambani’s company ‘expert’ in defence manufacturing as happened in the case when Rafael deal was done. At the Morbi town, Oreva company, which makes watches and bikes was given the ‘revadi’ for repairing and maintaining the bride. What does the company do? It paints the cables of the old structure, put some artificial aluminium plates and is compelled to advance the inauguration. The bridge was being overlooked by Oreva company since 2008. Its owner Jayasukh Bhai Patel reportedly told media that the company invested Rs 20 million in repairing and maintenance of the bridge and nothing would happen to the bride for next fifteen twenty years, as reported by the BBC but after the incident the police arrested two managers, two ticket clerks, three guards and two more people but nothing happened to Oreva group owner and the Morbi municipality leaders. The fact that the lawyers in Morbi decided not to fight the cases of these low-level employees making them responsible and guilty before any court could pronounce them so, shows the complete hypocrisy on their part though now the government claim that only 28 lakh rupees were spent and not two crores as the cable which was supposed to be changed was never done. Question is what action will the government take against the owner of the company and the corporation who seem hand in globe with each other. Unfortunately, rather than questioning those responsible for not carrying out maintenance accordingly and those who gave it a fitness certificate, the lawyers feel the poor people are responsible for the same. It is very much like the Manustream bootlickers who says that it is the people who were responsible for the accident. For readers here, Jaysukh Bhai Patel is reported to have authored a book ‘Samasya aur samadhan’ i.e. The problem and the solution, 2019 when he writes as what stops India from becoming Vishwguru ? He says, stop the elections and hand over the country to some ‘able’ man for next 15-20 years like China who work like Hitler. He is anti-reservation and feel that only dictators can give us freedom from corruption. He is upset against land acquisition and feel government must act like China as it is the owner of all the land in India and farmers and zamindars are just leaseholders.’ Now, one can understand what kind of people have been promoted by the BJP’s cronyism and why action has not been taken against this criminal who violated all the laws to open the bridge when it was not ready. Why Gujarat’s people, political parties are keeping quiet on Jaysukh Patel? Why has he not been arrested?

Narendra Modi visited the Morbi hospital next day. The hospital was made ‘lively’ for the prime minister so that he does not feel any problem when inside the hospital. It was painted. The rescue operations were stopped to ensure that they work when Narendra Modi was there. It was converted into an event. As Narendra Modi has finished giving ‘revadis’ to Gujarat, the election commission will declare the dates for Gujarat polls today.

How is that Narendra Modi and his party continue to disregard common concern and public opinion in Gujarat. Is it because the Savarna culture in Gujarat has become so dominant that despite absolute failure of maintaining the Covid crisis, joblessness, health crisis and despicable educational system, Modi’s Gujarat model is ‘famous’ and the Gujaratis world over feel so overwhelmed with his model. Is it the decay of the Gujarati society that political parties refuse to stand with Zakia Jaffari who is genuinely fighting to get justice? Why is that Gujarat need a Muslim villain to protect its ‘identity? Aam Admi Party which in Punjab and Delhi claimed to be following the path of Shaheed Bhagat Singh and Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar is doing exactly the opposite of the ideologies of the two legends. While BJP leadership at the centre cannot deny its shameless politicisation and justification of releasing the rapists of Bilkis Bano and killers her children and family members, Arvind Kejriwal and AAP’s deafening silence on the issue exposed the nature of Gujarat politics and opportunism of the political parties. All the convicts were released for ‘good conduct’ in the jail. These are the same parties and people which exploited the ‘Nirbhaya’ rape case in 2013 in Delhi. That time the common refrain among the ‘activist’ was to hang the culprits and so the case was fast-tracked and culprits were hanged to death. The same parties and leaders refused to take a stand on criminals and thugs who have been released by the Central and Gujarat government. This is India’s biggest shame that a man who claim to speak on behalf of 130 crore Indians refuses to take a stand on the issue when the rapists and murderers are released by the central government.

There is no protest in Gujarat against these releases. There is no protests and outrage on Morbi’s killings. All efforts will be made during elections to again create the favourable pitch of bringing a Muslim villain. The positive stories, the sacrifices and the work by the Muslim community is given either a miss or is completely ignored. Three men, Taufik Bhai, Naeem Sheikh, Hussain Pathan saved more than 85 people including children. They have been hailed as heroes but Gujarat government would not do anything to give them a heroic welcome and award them. Let us see how long will this story remain the part of media. They would easily be forgotten by the shameless media as in the election season they would not need positive stories but they will construct a villain if the things are difficult for the Bharatiya Janata Party.

For years, Narendra Modi and BJP never bothered about political niceties and keeping things away from blatant politicisation. In April 2016 when an overbridge collapsed in Kolkata Modi spoke the worst language expected of a prime minister. As reported by India Today, he said, ” “It is an act of god in the sense that it happened during election time so that people may know what kind of government she has been running. God has sent a message to the people – that today this bridge has collapsed, tomorrow she will finish off entire Bengal. God’s message to you all is to save Bengal.”

Right from Uttarakhand’s devastating Kedarnath tragedy in 2013 or Nirbhaya, BJP and RSS have used all opportunities politically. They gave no credit to the government if the response was quick or good as they set the narrative that it was Indian forces who did the work and not the government but for all subsequent successes of Indian army under their own regime, it was the achievement of the prime minister. The Union government is writing new script every day with active support from manustream media and bureaucracy, it is defining the Indian nationalism, vilifying Muslims. The biggest achievement of Narendra Modi government is ‘nationalisation’ and ‘normalisation’ of hatred against Muslims and absolute freedom to ‘institutions’ which are supposed to protect our rights to behave like the organs of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Media and politicians both are speaking the language of their cronies who are funding them and it is reflected very much in the crisis that has happened in Delhi which is the most polluted city of India. All standards of clean air have gone to haywire in Delhi. It is a regular feature after Diwali but the media and the government put the blame on the stubble burning by Punjab farmers. Kejriwal used to accuse the Punjab government in the olden times but right now he is doing nothing. His ministers blame farmers but shamelessly don’t tell people that fire crackers, unmindful construction work and vehicular traffic are the real cause. In the last few years the corporate sponsored politicians as well as media have kept the blame of the Delhi’s pollution on farmers so that the criminal cronies are saved and continue to fund these parties.

Right from Gujarat to Delhi, the message from those in power is clear that they will protect their cronies and build new narrative to blame the people, the poor for the fault of those in power. They will never express any regret or apology for any mistakes or misdeds but continue to play politics with people’s lives. As a citizen of India, we can only express our sorrow at things happening but the question is how long will the people in power protect the cronies? How long will the manustream media continue to play the role of the biggest villain of our democracy? We must share our own blame for not supporting the right people and those who are trying to bring facts and analysis to us. The time is ripe for people to support all the alternative forms of media which stand for people and their rights. If we do not support such initiatives, we will our selves have to blame for the crisis after Morbi. I bet, nothing would happen to the party as it will continue to win ‘trust’ of people in Gujarat. The country needs to be saved from such cynicism but that is only possible if the intellectuals too come out of their safety zones and speak up and support independent alternative media which can expose the attempt by the cronies to create the narrative of the alternative against the BJP by promoting Arvind Kejriwal who has clearly shown where does he stand and what are his priorities. If we don’t wake up sooner we will realise all liberals, seculars media will be jumping on this conclusion as the corporate want everything in its hand. It would not allow India go back to those who commit to secularism-social justice and welfare state. The Gujarat model is nothing but the same where our national asset is handed over to the private cronies and in return they charge money from people without providing them any safety. The crime of Overa company therefore, at Morbi is much bigger because it charged money from the people but did not provide any safety. Uttarakhand states have numerous such Jhoolapuls, suspension bridges and hopefully, the Gujarat model does not come where they charge every one who use it to reach his village. For the people of Uttarakhand, these bridges are not ‘history tourism’ but the need for connecting one village to other. Morbi is the rot called Gujarat model but will the people of Gujarat ever accept it ?

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Vidya Bhushan Rawat

Vidya Bhushan Rawat is a social and human rights activist. He blogs at twitter @freetohumanity Email: [email protected]

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