The security guards who worked at Kamala Mills compound claimed that many people were busy clicking selfies, with the fire roaring in background, instead of running to safety. In an incident which claimed lives of 14 people, while 19 were seriously injured, reports of such callous behaviour is highly appalling.

You are in midst of a life-and-death situation, and while you don’t even know where the exit from this disaster is, you choose to pause to take a selfie. Let me rephrase this. You would rather have an awesome selfie than run to safety or go out to help others, who are in trouble. With each passing year, we hear of instances which confirm the belief that we have regressed as a species. We are self-obsessed, show lack the presence of mind, and have messed up priorities.

 Last year, Carnegie Mellon University and the Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology in Delhi (IIITD) scoured public records to compile a list of 127 deaths associated with selfies worldwide between March 2014 and September 2016. Of all the deaths, 76 happened in India.

People have died while shooting selfies on expressway, in the valley of Lonavala, and while trying to kiss a Cobra.

I would have ignored these deaths, as a way of natural selection, to eliminate genes of stupidity from our DNA, if the only people to suffer were those who engaged in such acts. But often, unsuspecting people, and good Samaritans trying to help those in trouble, are the ones who die.

In January 2016, a man drowned in the sea in Mumbai, while trying to save three girls, who threw caution to the wind, while trying to get a selfie on slippery rocks. They lost their balance when a high wave-lashed at them, a fell into the sea. The man managed to rescue two of the girls, but lost his life, trying to rescue the third one. He is survived by a wife and three children.

Let’s come back to Kamala Compound fire and just think about the youth present there for a minute. People apparently chose to block exits to get a perfect click, instead of helping people escape the furnace. I am simply amused at my own indifference when I first read about this behaviour. As if I expected nothing more from people present there.

Such behaviour has become so commonplace and considered so normal, that if someone behaves otherwise, we suspect that he or she has lost their mental balance.

We need to sit people down and actually ask them what they know about disaster management. We need to create WhatsApp forwards with instructions to deal with calamities (because that is the only text most people read these days). There is an immediate need to create awareness among people as to how their selfie craze might cause harm to others as well.

It is a known fact that good education does not ensure presence of mind. Our generation does not understand the gravity of any situation, despite the fact that we live in times where safety and a mere fact that we are alive, seems like a luxury.

( Picture Credit: hindustantimes.com)

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Dr Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are the author’s own

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