V.R. Krishna Iyer, jurist and former Supreme Court Judge, writes:

Saturday was a black day, a dark day, a day of mourning, because 158 human lives were robbed, lost. Was it an accident or negligence or unfortunate calamity, or all these put together? Was it systemic complacency that caused the disaster? Probably yes.

Captain A. Ranganathan, whom I knew fairly well as one of the finest pilots in India with extraordinary experience and matchless expertise, has expressed his prima facie view that the tragic event was caused by systemic complacency. This causes grave concern since policy-making is in the realm of the government. How could the government be punished except by the resignation of the Minister concerned or an uninhibited inquest by a body capable of independent judgment?

It is easy to hold that the pilot was in error. Now that it is all over, we have only ashes, a jungle and a culpable airport. How shall we discover the truth? Those who have used the airport — as I have, several times — realise the horror of geography, and feel that the mountainous area with abrupt deep valleys is itself treacherously tragic. Having made it the base of an airport makes the Ministry concerned the first accused.

If there has been grievous default in the choice of location and terrain and the construction of the Mangalore Airport, it is necessary to investigate the various dimensions of delinquency so that a second disaster may be avoided. The Calicut Airport, as it is reported, has dangerous similarities with the Mangalore facility. Before another calamity claims innocent lives, redesign and renovation may be in order. In Delhi's myopia, it may not see the distant airports. Who knows whether there are other Mangalores in this land of craze for more airports? Popular demand is not based on expertise. No money should be free from guilty investment.

The Prime Minister is a man of economics but he needs to be liberal where airports and human lives are involved. He is a statesman, and his vision in a socialist republic has to be humanist.

My heart bleeds for every child whose prospects in life in this world have been nipped in the bud on account of a fatal casualty. We want to be modern, to have more air travel. But every airport without adequate safety facilities holds the potential for mass disaster and incendiary catastrophe. Blood and tears should not be the price of material advance.

The Prime Minister should intervene to save the country from air crashes and catastrophes. Alas! Mangalore, a million dreams have turned to ashes.

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