There have been some incidents of shooting in the United States since the beginning of the year in which black teenagers have been shot at practically gunpoint range by white policemen, a disturbing phenomenon with racial undertones that are clearly a blur on a country. Despite having elected a black President for a second mandate, and having so many prominent black icons especially in the fields of sports and entertainment, the shadow of racism persists in the US as so many of the recent incidents show.
Thankfully, though, the aftermath is not attended by attempts at violent and equivalent retribution on the part of the black community; instead there are calls for forgiveness and reconciliation, as was seen after the shootings in a church at Ferguson, where a young white gunman went on a rampage inside the church where a service was under way.
Such incidents add to the other shootings that take place on university campuses, and have extended even to secondary schools, killing innocent lives and leaving bereaved parents and relatives in tears. Repeated attempts at gun control in the country have been uniformly unsuccessful, so powerful is the gun lobby there. President Obama too has been trying in vain to bring about changes in the gun laws, and as he is in the last year of his mandate it does not look likely that he will be able to fulfill this objective.
With the outcome of the next election uncertain, it seems that the US is in for a long haul before any meaningful curb on gun violence takes place. Sadly and inevitably, going by the current trends, many more innocent lives will be lost.
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Climate change: Dramatic floods in Chennai
The summit on climate change, COP 21, is currently being held in Paris. If there were to be any demonstration of the phenomenon of climate change, there is perhaps no more poignant one than what happened in Chennai two days ago. Torrential rains lashed the city and surroundings, leading to extensive flooding and water-logging of such severity that there was a virtual lock-down in the city. The airport had to be closed as the runway was under water: the picture of an aircraft standing in a the flooded runway was something that had never been witnessed before; further, all access roads to the airport were under water too so that vehicles couldn’t ply.
The rains fell even as Chennai had just started to recover from similar flooding last week, and people had just started to breathe a sigh of relief. But this was not to last, and the situation is even much worse this time around because the total amount of rain that fell in one day, 208 mm, exceeded the usual average during the whole month of December, 191 mm! This catastrophic downfall is a truly unprecedented one, and the consequences on the life of the city and its population, especially those in the lower socio-economic strata, are indeed dire.
No need to say that the Indian army has had to be called, and has swung into rescue mode to supplement the efforts of the National Disaster Relief Force. Prime Minister Modi has tweeted from Paris and has talked to the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Ms Jayalalitha, promising all the help of the central government to the state.
Similar flooding has taken place in parts of the world where such events do not usually happen. For example, heavy rains fell in the United States last week, in the states of Colorado, Arizona and Texas, which have been known to be sun-baked practically all the year round. But the change is happening, and as in Chennai there has also been loss of many lives – even the most advanced countries face constraints in coping with the catastrophes of such magnitudes.
Disaster preparedness and relief will have to be a permanent feature in the planning of all countries around the world whatever be the outcome of the Paris Summit. In fact, according to experts in the matter, it does not look as if the goal of limiting global temperature rise by 2 degrees centigrade will be achievable in the expected time so as to avert such major catastrophes that are happening everywhere. We will know soon enough, and without warning.
* Published in print edition on 4 December 2015