Commenting on the recent peat-bog and forest fires in Russia, Economist informed that prime minister Putin was at the controls of a plane dropping 12 tonnes of water on two fires. “Was that a hit?” asked the pm from a co-pilot’s seat. “A direct hit” was the reply. Reduced number of forest guards, pathetic roads making fire spots out of reach to fire-crews and dilapidated fire-fighting equipment are stated to be the reasons for deaths (53) and devastation. Confirmation came from unusual sources, You Tube clips and ubiquitous bloggers. One of them, using the F-word liberally, asked, where the fire-ponds, fire-engines and fire-alarms inherited from “nut-case communists” in his village had gone. Praising the mystery blogger’s writing skills, Mr. Putin in a hand written reply promised him a fire-alarm. Though it is
rumoured that the blog is a plant, officials looked around for the blogger to gift him the alarm instead of fighting fires.
Some years ago, fire deaths on a much bigger scale occurred in Dabwalli, a village near Delhi, when more than 400 children perished while attending a school ceremony. They were inside a tent in a walled space with just one exit. Till now, Dabwalli mourns for its lost kids by not lighting a fire (even for cooking) on that fateful day of the year.
The comedy was something I was a witness to and also to some extent the perpetrator. It was my job then to go round factories checking the fire-fighting equipment. In a government-run cotton mill, after a dismal tour of inspection, I requested for a test of the fire-pump with four water jets. The firefighters refused to do that because their starched and freshly-laundered would become soggy!