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Friday, December 02, 2005

red alerts

Red is the universal color of danger and ‘red alert’ gives advance information of lurking dangers. The exact point of time when this term came to the forefront would necessitate considerable research – in the Indian context, dangers twenty years back came from Nature. Mostly they were connected to floods – the measuring stick located in major dams would send out the warning signs that the level of the reservoir is rising and is likely to cross the danger level within some specified time. Later, with high jacking of aero planes becoming an important tool for bargaining, red alerts would be issued when there were suspicions of such events in the offing. Later still, when terrorists took over, red alerts have become more common. Every hoax phone call triggers off a chain reaction – disaster management teams swing into action, rapid action forces are deployed – but, only after the damage is done. Our reaction time is affected not only by our sloppy standards and the game of passing the buck but also politicization. Each and everyone wants to gain mileage out of human suffering. If information is received through supposedly reliable underground channels, the people on top who are meant to pre-empt dangers start behaving in a manner that does not evoke respect for the guardians of law and order. With advanced equipments available, those who are responsible to safeguard of our lives and properties should issue red alerts only as a last resort. Red alerts should not be misused to shift responsibilities – if a bomb scare is there in the airport, hairs should not be split over whose jurisdiction is involved: if the bomb really remains untraced and explodes, it will take with it innocent lives and destroy important facilities.

Red alerts are also issued when Nature decides to show her wrath – our met departments release warnings after detailed study of cloud patterns. On receipt of these advance warnings, the media issues red alerts and advises fishermen not to venture out to sea etcetera – these are downright silly exercises. Fishermen do not wait to listen to radio broadcasts or TV news – their lives depend on the sea and they seldom have the time or inclination for such activities. In reality, the local administration should ensure that the message reaches the concerned persons and persuade them to take heed.

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