Few days back, a major under construction flyover had collapsed in Kolkata as the incident claimed more than 20 lives. The assembly election is already being held in West Bengal. On the other hand, a major fire incident occurred in Puttingal Devi temple in Kollam killing more than 108 people in other poll bound state Kerala. The tragedy can be termed as a national disaster! It is heart rending and shocking beyond words! Both these incidents are man-made and not “Acts of God”! What a hopeless and painful Vishu for Kerala residents?
Vishu in Kerala, historically, is a New Year celebration and falls on April 14th! And sadly on the eve of the important “Vishu festival”, the temple tragedy occurred in Kollam! The number of causalities is likely to increase! I won’t be able to celebrate Vishu this time. Inspite of all the associated dangers, Kerala Hindus cannot celebrate festivals without kari (meaning elephant and firecrackers)! Hindus are divided on the basis of caste like Brahmins, Nairs, Ezhavas, SC and ST etc that they forget to take care of themselves and the future generations.
In almost all the temple festivals celebrated in Kerala, elephants are made to stand for hours in the scorching heat as people cheer amid ear piercing drumbeats. These elephants carry men, the deity and other paraphernalia. It is nothing less than dignified cruelty. Fierce competition exists between two or more groups representing the local villages to show who is superior. Firecrackers are busted after this competition. People say that all these celebrations are a part of old age tradition. Few decades back, the population density in the area or any village was too small with a lot of vacant paddy fields. Now, the situation has changed drastically due increasing population. People densely inhabit with free and open land by paying lumpsum money as nuclear families is gaining prominence. Several houses get damaged due to the severe vibration induced by bursting crackers. Let us be pragmatic. We have to adapt to the changing situations and circumstances. Mere emulation of rules will not serve the purpose. The organizers should come together and impose a ban on bursting crackers which will bring down the incidental casualties and damages. In fact the Kollam temple tragedy happened despite strong objections and complaints from locals and Collector’s refusal to grant permission for fireworks. The police too didn’t intervene to stop fireworks due to political pressure.
In what way God is going to get appeased by bursting crackers in a small area by flouting all safety norms? Similarly ban the usage of elephants too in festivals. Violations should be made non-bailable offenses. Now the world famous “Trissur Pooram” festival is also scheduled to be held in few days. In this festival hundred elephants are employed and major fireworks are on display. The authorities concerned should take utmost precautions from now on, to avoid the repeat of Kollam fire tragedy. My heartfelt condolences to all the members of the bereaved families of the Kollam fire accident!