Hotel Savera drowning incident: twists and turns

Becoming wiser after the event would seem to be a typical Indian trait. The tragic death of Sumit Agnihotri of Slashsupport in the Hotel Savera New Year eve stage collapse is one such. As the New Indian Express reports, the event manager, Anthony Michael and representative of the contractor were arrested and released on bail. The Hindu reports that “interrogations are on with the accused and police are on the lookout for a few more persons” although readers would have liked to know what exactly the police want to elicit with their “interrogations” and all charges they had laid so far.

Kalaignar TV had a report this afternoon stating that the contractor for the Hotel Savera stage had surrendered in court.

There is an elaborate description in today’s New Indian Express piece about the procedure for grant of permission for such events, involving that most opaque of government departments, the PWD.

The procedure sounds very impressive on paper, but as with all things Indian, no agency really bothers to uniformly do any inspection in reality. They just hope that things don’t go wrong. And when they do, fingers are pointed at some weak link (such as a government official or private establishment employee without much influence or some contractor) and blame would be pinned on that section of the weak chain.

As I have pointed out earlier, the media is not really interested in pursuing the story in some depth; commercial toes are too soft and sensitive to tread on. 

I remember some years ago, there were a series of lift accidents in Chennai, with a child and a woman dying in entirely avoidable ghastly incidents.

It was found that each lift had to get a certificate from a statutory authority that existed solely for that purpose. Yet, few residential complexes in Chennai even knew of the existence of the Lift Inspectorate, located in an obscure building in Guindy at the time, and so the question of getting periodic certificates did not arise (Read The Hindu’s report of 2002, “Half of city’s lifts uncertified” and another report by the same journalist in 2004 titled “The vertical terror zone“. The builders could not care less about the well-being of those to whom they sold the properties. Even worse, those who approached the inspectorate found that they were simply issued a receipt on payment of fee, without any inspection involved! The lift companies, for their part, did not have the requisite manpower to service the growing number of locations they had installed lifts in, and small time service outfits were only too willing to chip in with low cost service — and as events bore out, at the cost of lives.

Those living in India know that the story is the same, whether it is driving licences, fitness certificates, passports (yes, policemen who come to verify addresses are happy with some gratification and, more importantly, are hostile if there is none), building clearances, and so on.

Political parties routinely steal electricity from the TNEB, by drawing wires from pillar boxes for rallies. Lights are then connected to the illegal lines. This is done by puncturing the wires with a metal pin, and connecting it to the terminals of the lights. No one is the wiser, and the same TNEB that will muscle its way into your house to pull the plug if you are in default, in most cases pretends to be completely unaware of what the political parties are doing.

We should not lose sight of the fact that the Government is the biggest violator of its own rules. On occasion, Government will even take ‘legal’ measures, through Government Orders, ordinances etc, to legalise what is patently illegal. We all know that most of the commercial buildings in T.Nagar’s textile and gold shopping area were built without the necessary permissions, and sought to be “regularised” on payment of a fee.

Thus, when Government is at the head of the line of violators, is it surprising that Hotel Savera was willing to put up a flimsy stage and pile people on it?

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