Karela Fry

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Outsourcing your own security

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An article in DNA seeks to inject some sense into the utter senselessness of the current public discourse on safety:

It’s not difficult to set off a bomb blast in Mumbai, or for that matter in any Indian city. … It just needs local individuals with greed, grievance, or sheer malice to be persuaded to use locally available material — with some help from those who know who to rig up explosives — to plant a bomb or three.

The greedy and the malicious can be deterred by raising their costs: if would-be terrorists are exposed, caught and punished, such people might not want to take the risk. Those with grievances can be harder to deter, so we need to ensure that we address them and don’t create new ones. It is impossible to completely erase grievances, but we can manage them. One way to do this is to strengthen social capital. It’s hard to do this in Mumbai, a city given to outpourings of selfless public-spiritedness during crises but abjectly lacking a public ethic otherwise, but it has to be attempted.

It has to be attempted. People have to look at their surroundings. But that is going to be a long uphill battle. Evidence comes from an article entitled “Over 24 hrs, cabbie lay at wheel dead and unnoticed”, in which Mumbai Mirror reports:

Mumbai cab driver dies in his taxi

Throughout the night, a taxi driver lies dead in his cab parked on a busy street outside Matunga Road station where people mill about and vehicles zip past. And yet, not a soul notices the 33-year-old plonked at the wheel of the yellow-and-black.

And this comes barely a couple of days after the police have been stressing on the need for citizens to look out for ‘suspicious’ vehicles parked around them, in the wake of the three bombs that ripped through three different spots in the city, killing at least 19 people and injuring several others.

The article in DNA concludes:

Why do we have such poor and so few public service ambulances? Is our fire brigade really equipped to handle a city of over 13 million people? Why, do we give way to emergency vehicles while driving everyday? If we cannot prevent diabolical terrorists from trying to kill people indiscriminately, we can certainly try to mitigate the damage. At Thursday’s press conference, reporters asked questions about such things as intelligence failure and what India might do if the plot were traced back to Pakistan. No one asked why it is that in the richest city of a country with claims to be a global power, survivors had to be bundled in the back of rusty cargo vans to be taken to hospital.

These are questions which could be meaningfully asked by the opposition parties. However, they are busy asking instead for more meaningless laws to stop terrorism. I don’t recall that these laws were any good at stopping a terrorist attack on the Indian parliament during their tenure in the government.


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