Monday, July 19, 2004

India School Fire That Killed 90 Reveals Gaps in Nation's Progress
-By DAVID ROHDE, July 18, 2004, The New York Times
While the country's high technology economy surges ahead, inefficient — and in some ways, weak — federal, state and local governments, as well as a poor public education system, threaten to slow the country's development.
Friday's fire illustrates how all those strains can come together to craft tragedy. Kannan Saravanan, 9, said from his hospital bed that his teacher told his fourth-grade class on Friday morning that their school was on fire. The teacher told the children to "run away," the boy recalled, and then ran away herself.
Abandoned with as many as 190 other students in an overcrowded second-floor classroom, the boy did not know what to do, he said.
He said he saw flames near the room's only exit, so he retreated farther into the classroom with dozens of other children and climbed under a bench as a searing fire roared above him.
"I watched three people burning and dying in front of me, young children," he said. "They didn't say anything. They were just crying."
...and India has been crying for a long time but hasn't been saying anything!
"Whatever the highest level of prosecution, that will be done," Mr. Radhakrishnan vowed.
How high? The education minister? The chief minister? The prime minister?
Sparks from a fire made by a cook, who is one of the people who has been arrested, somehow ignited the thatched roof that hangs over the kitchen.
All Indians, especially those who can think and judge (and care), should check to see if a thatched roof hangs over all of India, a rising world power.


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