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Thursday, Jul 13, 2006

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Opinion - Editorial
States - Maharashtra
Mumbai unfazed

Unfairly hit by bombs placed in local trains by invisible terrorists, the megapolis was back on its feet within 24 hours.

Mumbaikars helped Mumbaikars bring sanity to this part-beautiful, part-warty city and script a tale told many times. Unfairly felled by bombs placed in the first-class compartments of local trains by invisible terrorists on Tuesday, the dazed Mumbaikar, in his usual grumpy style, was back on his feet on Wednesday to sign the office muster. Some will be counting their dead friends and relatives or searching for them in the morgues of various hospitals; many will be mourning over lost friendships struck by years of travelling together. Over time the wounds will dry to scars disfiguring the psyche of the Mumbaikar.

At accident spots, the first help came from the much-maligned slum-dwellers; the police and railway machinery did better than earlier times by hitting the railway tracks and streets faster. But mobiles and landlines fell dead with the last and seventh blast and the Mumbaikar could not get in touch with his home or office. This had happened when the city was deluged by a cloudburst on July 26, 2005. Operators blame the huge number of calls jamming the system but that does not wash as a mobile phone is meant for use in a crisis. There is the argument that active mobiles could spread panic; but TV channels went live with the disaster from the first blast. BEST buses, taxis and autos worked overtime to cart the injured to hospitals and the stranded to their homes. Walking the roads and talking to men and women, one doubted whether train services could be on schedule on Wednesday as the city's western corridor lay in a mess. Apparently, the railway machinery worked through the night to clear the debris of damaged trains from the tracks and repair the lines for the trains to run on time. It was as if the bomb blasts had not taken place. Elsewhere, deals were being struck at the stock, money and commodities markets with the Sensex soaring to fob off doubts over the working of the financial capital.

Inquiries will be made, politicians will try to make space for themselves, and promises will be offered to put in place the much-touted disaster management strategy. One thought a strategy was missing. For instance, why should the landlines or mobiles sputter? The hospitals did not seem to have any mechanism to display the list of dead and injured nor were they hooked to each other to make the search easier. The public address system at railway stations need not have been so reluctant to part with the news as stating facts (unpleasant) always alerts the traveller. With the lathi being the cutting edge of technology for the police force, can it battle terrorism getting more techy by the hour? Most arterial roads were jammed and even police vans found it hard to reach trouble spots; pile on the visits of dignitaries and the utility of the police force gets sharply diminished. Yet, Mumbai seems to have triumphed.

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