Incentives, Apathy and Mathematics -> Bomb Blasts!

Another city, another set of bomb blasts – same set of statements repeated by politicians, police and the media alike; it is seeming more and more like the good ol’ Doordarshan repeat of movies/serials. Hyderabad then, Jaipur now – concurrent blasts, same set of devices, same kind of networking and probably similar number of people killed. How often do we hear that ‘History repeats itself’; I have seen history repeat itself twice over now.

Terrorists (jihadis) who are paid/motivated to cause such disruptions aside, let us look at three fundamental angles to this issue –

1) Politicians: What do we call a bunch of politicians? I say, let’s start calling them ‘A swarm of incompetence’. We often had the same dialogues repeated over and over, irrespective of which party is in power (seems like they have had a common scriptwriter in the Parliament)

‘The terrorists will be firmly dealt with’ (with what, chocolates?)

‘The intent of the terrorists was to cause maximum damage to human life. We will not tolerate such acts of cruelty’ (how surprising!)

Let’s not try to blame them for a moment, shall we? I mean why blame them, if they are not the ones who had/have perpetrated the crime? They cannot leave their all-important job of taking bribes (oops, gifts!) and go after these blood-sucking criminals, can they?

Let’s try to look at it from their perspective. Why at all should they be driven to protect their citizens in a zealous manner from bomb blasts and terrorists? Was a political party ever voted out of power because they did not provide proper safety to their citizens? Or were they voted out of power because the price of onions/rice/wheat rose dramatically? [FYI, BJP was voted out for rise in price of onions in a state]. The incentives are very clear to the politicians too. Every human being is driven by incentives, and the politicians, more so. Let’s not try to get into the moral argument of ‘they were voted into power to secure the lives of citizens’. They were voted into power to do many other things, but they don’t. Police and intelligence were recruited to do this kind of job, not the politicians. Blaming them recklessly would not lead to any fruitful results. What we need to do however – is find a way to incentivise saving of lives, incentivise preventing bomb blasts and then observe positive results automatically. Until that happens, we are going to hear many such similar statements, irrespective of the number of bomb blasts that happen.

[I am deliberately avoiding commenting on the Media. As such, nowadays, two monkeys taking care of each other on a tree in a remote village, Abhishek-Aishwarya wedding drama got more coverage than these bomb blasts; not to mention the frenzy over IPL. Ignorance is total bliss in such a scenario. Fools of the infiniteth order!]

2) ‘We’ the People: One word, Apathy! We have grown apathetic to killing, to terrorism and all related carnages. Sad, but true. What is the first thing you do when you hear of bomb blasts? I, for one, watch the news, call up home to check if everything and everyone known to us is Ok and then switch to more interesting channels. Indifference to death, not in the spiritual sense but materially – we hear about deaths in Kashmir, deaths in the North-Eastern (NE) states so regularly, that it has totally dropped out of the news radar. Heck, the daily number of deaths in Kashmir and NE states might be more than the deaths in Jaipur and Hyderabad put to-gether. Do we express a concern? Oh yeah, words of condolences in Jaipur and Hyderabad’s cases, and silence in other scenarios. And, why is apathy bad? Because, this apathy precisely translates into politicians not having to deal with terrorism ‘with a strong hand’ in literal sense, this same apathy doesn’t make us considerate towards ‘curbing terrorism’ while we vote. Alas, we hope to avoid every bomb blast that happens, and pray every day that a bomb doesn’t go somewhere in the world which may affect any of our family members. I sincerely hope we don’t get into a situation where bomb blasts become the order of the day, just like Kashmir and NE states. As preposterous and terribly pessimistic it may sound, if the scenario does come into play, we have only ourselves to blame.

3) ‘What can I do?”: Actually, nothing. I, as an individual cannot make a difference other than write blogs like this, or support a peace rally which probably will not even get noticed/written about. I cringed, while I wrote the above lines – but I do have some cold logic to support my statement (as awful as it may sound, this is probability!).

Consider this – Police and intelligence agencies might have foiled probably 100 attempts of bomb blasts before this became successful. If not 100, it may be 1000. Considering the breadth of India’s geographical boundaries and its porous borders, the probability of success of bomb blasts increases dramatically day by day. This is because we have more ‘probable’ terrorists coming in through the porous borders for almost the same number of field force in police and intelligence agencies. Hence, by default, the police and intelligence are bound to miss on a tip or two – which might lead to blasts like Jaipur and Hyderabad (and as scientists say, there is usually one success for every 1000 failures]. So much for my optimism, agenda, ‘curbing terrorism’ et al, the mathematics is seemingly true. Please feel free to dispute the logic in the comments section. [And please, hope my mathematical argument doesn’t lead you to question ‘Are you asking us to stop working on curbing terrorism because probability (mathematics) says so? Are you nuts?’ – No, I am not suggesting to stop working on ‘curbing terrorism’. In fact, I am only suggesting to increase vigilance dramatically to stop such incidents].

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4 comments so far

  1. Adastrian on

    A very well written post, but I felt ended very abruptly (that’s for the literary part).

    Talking about terrorism in India and the apathy that we as people have developed these days, I totally agree. There was a very interesting article that I read on rediff on the similar topic. The author there cited Operation Bluestar and its repercussions (Mrs. Gandhi being killed) and its advantages (that Punjab is now a peaceful state and is the granary of India) and said that its high time, we as a nation did not sit mum and claim to have nuclear power and all, but in actuality use our armed forces to weed out. India has always remained tolerant, but then its high time that the armed forces and the capable officers used their might. Not a single terrorist attack after 9/11 in the US, is in itself a statement of how US has reacted to the terrorist attacks.
    Its time India took things into its hand without bothering about all the castes, disputes et all.

  2. Kiran on

    @Adastrian – Thankus! 🙂

    First things first, let us not mix logic and politics – we all know that both are mutually exclusive. Expecting ‘no botheration’ about castes etc., is essentially political suicide – Noone will do it.
    You raise a pertinent point – the way US reacted to terrorist attacks. You can extend (rather fallaciously I guess, which I explain here) the same logic to Punjab and probably Gujarat too. However, my argument goes smthg like this –

    1) Punjab and Gujarat were purely internal matters, and not related to terrorism which is a beast to be handled in a totally different fashion (and I would personally recommend, kill your Rediff love, Rediff is pretty crappy 🙂 ).

    2) US – hmm, let’s analyse this a bit further. How many hostile neighbours does US have? How many attacks does it have to fend off day in day out at its borders? How many soldiers were killed due to attempts at infiltration by terrorists? Probably close to zero. Is it the same scenario with India? We probably have every possible neighbour infiltrating terrorists into our country (SL, Nepal, Bangladesh, China and not to mention Pak!). And given that we have porous borders aplenty due to long geographical boundaries – we are talking of a totally different proposition compared to the US, which can get away quite easily I should say with a hit on Afghanistan.

    Ah! That was another blog in a comment! 😛

  3. Meenu on

    Nice post! It got linked to mine, and I enjoyed reading your blog 🙂 Every word true to the point!

  4. […] My earlier post when similar terrorist activity occurred in Hyderabad and Jaipur – little more analytical. […]


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