The Worthless Human Life and Our Role

Sep 14th, 2012 | By | Category: Latest, Pakistan

It was my first day at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge as a trainee doctor, ‘the Induction day. Being a medical graduate from Pakistan, it was a very important day for me to get acquainted with the system. As expected I went through Basic Life Support training, precautions before transfusing a patient, infection control, hand washing techniques and basics of prescribing. All was well until we came to the last training module of fire training. Fire training, for a doctor? Why oh why? Let us go home now, my stomach was rumbling with hunger and my head was aching. But I had to sit for this mandatory module as I wouldn’t be allowed to work unless all boxes were checked and this would be repeated every year.

My Asian colleagues and I were in agreement “these ‘goras’ are too sensitive to trivial things”. We laughed. “No one cares about those petty infections and issues in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh which they fuss about” we chuckled. “We are strong, immune and hardy to most of the infections and why this fire training? We are not training to be firemen.” … Only a few years of living here proved it was nothing to be proud of.

The module began. The fireman training us, taught about 6 types of fire, their chemistry and physics including how fire spreads (i.e. Conduction, Convection and Radiation), different kinds of fire fighting equipment, fire exits (not to lock them or obstruct them or park in front of them), assembly points, weekly fire test alarms, electromagnetic fire doors which would close automatically in case of fire alarm going off (to contain the fire) etc. Too much, too boring, we all agreed and yawned as “passionate doctors”.

Photo by AFP

The Karachi fire tragedy has taken the peace away. More than 300 precious human lives lost including women and children, 300 families mourning their loved ones, charred bodies, the worst fire tragedy in history of Pakistan, what a horrible day it was! Lack of implementation of basic laws, low cost of human lives, selfish money-making employers, lack of governance and professionalism on their part and lack of training and awareness of basic rights on employee’s part; my mind is all entangled, trying to find the root cause.

It’s true that the government is non-functional, the laws and legislature are left to dust in libraries and offices, and the nation is running most of the things on its own without any support from the leaders. But it’s a fact as well, that, we as a nation are too casual and complacent in our daily routines. You wear a seat belt – you are too sensitive a kid, or you are a showing-off-elite child. Wearing a helmet while biking makes you less of a ‘hero’.  Overtaking a car by revving your engine is a ‘wow’ factor and sticking to the rules and observing laws make you a timid teddy or less manly. And when someone asks you to be cautious and stick to the rules, they are just a nervous ‘newbie London-palat’. The casual attitude of complacence must change.

The Karachi factory had all exit doors locked except one, and people kept pleading for the keys. The only working ‘fire exits’ were some windows through which some workers managed to fling themselves to save their lives. Yes! I am talking about humans locked in an ‘inferno’ and killed because no one saw it coming. This horrible incident could repeat itself if we don’t stand up.

But what can we do?

Every one of us can pressurize our employers, self-train and then train others, run a movement not only in factories, but all places even homes. Imagine the horrific consequences in schools, colleges, offices and hospitals.

There’s a lot to learn from the developed world but unfortunately our society only takes copying their accent and outfit as ‘development’ and for our leaders, knowing the West only means luxurious holidays and wagging tails on their commands. All the leaders who have ruled us so far know how things work in developed countries but what they don’t know is that their prime responsibility is learn from them, change and implement laws and protect the citizens. That’s what these leaders are answerable for, in the court of God.

Casualties from plane crashes, overloaded vans falling from heights, fire tragedies are all preventable with just little precaution. I wouldn’t stop blaming government for anything tragic we encounter, but that’s not it! Think what we can do as responsible people. Our responsibility increases due to them being dysfunctional.  Impress upon annual vehicle checks, start from your car, team up with other parents and refuse to send your children in a van that has no check, team up with colleagues and pressurise your employer for fire training. Arrange fire trainings in hospitals, schools and colleges. Play your role wherever you are. This is the least we can do when we know we are forgotten and abandoned by the lot we call government. Let the change begin.

Aisha Aijaz

About the author

Aisha Aijaz is a medical doctor, a student of History, a photographer and a dreamer who longs for a kind and tolerant world. She loves Urdu poetry.

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4 comments
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  1. A thought provoking blog on the low the value of precious human life in Pakistan! we should be embarrassed by these sort of events and learn from our mistakes and make sure these things do not happen in future

  2. Yes, I agree. Although being Muslims we must believe in every good or bad that comes to us to be from Allah, yet Allah has never forbade us from taking precationary measures.

    We were debating the same incident yesterday and most of my colleagues were of the opinion that the owners of the garments factory should be held accountable for all this. I reminded them that most of the emergency exits, and extra lifts are locked in our hospital due either to shortage of staff or to incompetent management. This posed a great hurdle in the 2005 earthquake and created a bottleneck situation at the time of earthquake.

    If this is the situation in a supposedly tertiary care hospital, situation could be unimaginable in other sectors. Surely, in case of individual incidents, we can point out persons or isolated factors responsible for the calamaties but it is the over all attitude of our nation towards precautionary measures that needs to be changed via education.

    We have to cover a lot!

  3. very good piece aisha… once again u hit the root of the pbm… but good thing is that.. u came out with intellectual solution… keep writing good stuff…;-)

  4. Yes, Aisha on my many visits to Pakistan I was disillusioned with the so-called educated classes who didn’t seem to have any common sense at all. education in health, safety. rules, hygiene, fire safety etc, ie all rules and regulations that protect civil society should trickle top down. but there are no campaigns or educational efforts on even the simplest of problems. having trained in health and safety in the UK I was frustrated when i visited a posh college in lahore. a scrap of red carpet was used enhance the stairs leadign up the stage. those who climbed up the stairs to get their award kept slipping on the loose carpet. it was beneath anyone to get up and remove the carpet lest anyone slip. in pakistan it’s all about short-term rather than long-term. thinking long-term is thought of as cowardly and too careful, far too weak a trait to think of the common good. common sense and intelligence is unfashionable in pakistan.

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