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Another Mig Crash and Pain Based Activism (or lack of thereof) in India

Another Mig Crashed in India. About 300 crashes have happened in last 40 years.

Reading the news,  several things come to my mind.

First is the memory of watching a documentary on an submarine accident in USA. It resulted in death of one sailor. The sailor’s parents took the US Navy to court and persistently followed the case till necessary safety procedure changes were made that could have prevented the accident. That might not have brought their son back, but it at least prevented from someone else’s son dying. I don’t really see the parents and families of deceased Indian pilots making it a mission to bring in improvement.

In another strangely similar parallel incidents, I know of a family in USA whose son died in very young age, like 10 because of cancer. I also know a family in India whose son died at very young age because of cancer. But the USA family seems to be lot more active in collecting money for cancer research society, putting up a website and following up with the news in cancer research. Comparatively Indian family is sitting quiet. They believe the doctor made wrong diagnosis and that delayed the treatment. If asked why don’t they take the doctor to the court, they reply “That’s not going to bring our son back.”

Why some people’s pain turns them into activists, while other people’s pain paralyzes them?

Pain based activism, channeling your pain to fix the problem for the whole society, marks an incremental positive step for the society. Greatest example is motorcycle helmet. “Snell foundation”, founded by widow of a race car driver who died in car crash, played a significant role in enforcing helmet laws in USA and ended up saving countless lives in future.

Many such steps over time add up and make a difference between prosperous and safe society and well, not so prosperous and safe society. A lot of progress in Western world has actually happened this way.

A common man in India is not likely to have enough motivation to bring in changes in Mig flying conditions. But parents of deceased pilot have that motivation. They have to channel their pain right.

This is not to blame anyone. It’s a question. Why don’t we do it?

Are we too stressed to do anything beyond what we have to?

Or are we fatalists and believe we have no control our own destiny?

Or are we victim of a perfectionist mindset where we can think of the ideal solution and that’s too difficult to realize. We can’t stop all the crashes. But most of our goals from fixing corruption to reducing poverty seem to be closer to ideal scenario than realistic scenario.

That perhaps overwhelms us and then we don’t do anything. Do we need to aim lower and celebrate small victory?

Also do we remain fixated on just one most obvious way to fix the problem? For every problem there are causes and enablers. Like for Mig crashes, the engine malfunction or some technical problem could be the main cause. But may be we can catch that by fixing the inspection process, or by ensuring pilots get enough training, or at least ensuring the safety exit systems work properly so pilots can escape ,or making sure our indigenous aircraft development project gets on track fast so that these MIGs can be phased out .

This is not just about Mig crash. The victims of railway accidents have real motivation to fix something in railway.  The victims of food poisoning have real motivation to take the food control department to the task. The victims of terrorism have felt the real pain and have real motivation to make a change happen.

But we only hear the cries of victimization. We don’t hear these victims forming groups and taking the respective agencies to the task, trying to fix a small problem somewhere that would save lives tomorrow.

There is one foundation I found on Internet that is founded by mother of one such deceased pilot. Abhijit Gadgil foundation. They seem to be doing exactly what I am talking about. We really need more people like them. But while you are reading about this, stop by their site and check them out.

We have lot of pain. We need to figure out a way to channel it to activism rather than frustrate us or paralyze us. We need the pain to motivate us.


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