Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Will we ever get answers?

YSR's death again threw up multiple questions on the efficacy of our system while dealing with crises. Before going into the whole whether-the-helicopter-was-fit-for-flying thing, I want to make few points:

  • The response of the state government has been disappointing at the least and appalling at times. YSR's chopper lost contact with ATC at around 9:15am. Only at 3:45 pm, it was announced to the world that he is missing. And the request for local tribes to help in search operations went out then. It was raining heavily, and obviously at around 4, the dense forests of Nallamalla will be very dark. And in a couple of hours more, it will be pitch dark.Why then, there was so much delay in announcing this?
  • How come no alarm was raised till some official realised 15 minutes past the landing time that something might have gone wrong? If the ATC loses signal, how come no one was notified? Or did they just think the helicopter will find its own way, and losing the signal of a chopper was normal?
  • What transpired between 10:45am (when it was realised that something went wrong) and 3:45pm? What actions were taken, if any? Why were senior officials also telling that the CM was safe and sound? Was it a deliberate ploy to divert attention? Or was it that no one really knew anything about what was happening?
  • The Home Minister was not even seen in the initial briefings, why this lapse? Reprts also suggested that the DGP met with K.V.P.Ramachandra Rao when this news broke out. How come such a thing can even happen? Does the DGP think he can so conviently ignore the Home Minister?
  • And the most baffling fact of all. How come the Home Minister comes in a convoy of 4 buses along with MLA's/ministers, while the DGP flies in an helicopter from Hyderabad to Kadapa?
  • I am not questioning why the police did not make proper arrangements for the 4 buses to reach Kadapa… in such a situation I think it difficult to regulate traffic as well as control the crowd, but the DGP's startling behaviour during this whole saga is disgusting to note. He did not even have the minimum courtesy of making sure his boss reaches the funeral place. This kind of behaviour is not new to this person, but somehow he manages to cross the limits multiple times.
  • Now, the Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) on the helicopter did not send out any signals. And because it did not send out any signals, the aviation corporation very confidently put out a statement saying that the helicopter would not have crashed. Guess what, it was revealed in today's newspapers that the ELT's frequencies gloally were updated to 406MHz and this particular ELT was still transmitting at 121.5 and 243 MHz! Isn't this shameful? Who will take responsibility for this carelessness? In this particular case, we might not have saved the passengers, but atleast the search would have been over much earlier.
  • There is no satellite phone on the chopper! I mean, doesn't it sound "elementary, my dear Watson"?
  • And now, they may not be able to decode the flight recorder data here it seems!

In hindsight, it is easier to pinpoint many more such mistakes before the flight took off. What is however disturbing is that our response to such disasters is disastrous to say the least. And the saddest part is that all those responsible for such tardiness will go scot-free. The worst legacy YSR leaves behind is a take-it-easy, go-slow approach on many matters. Sadly, it took his death for us to realise how deep it has crept into.