While issuing a slew of directions for management of COVID-19 situation and related issues in Gujarat, the Gujarat High Court recalled the role of the ship "Carpathia" which acted as a saviour of many victims of the Titanic tragedy.
When the Titanic hit the iceberg on April 15, 1912, there were three more ships in its periphery. The nearest one was "The Sampson", merely 11 kilometers away from Titanic. Though its crew saw the distress signals from the Titanic, "The Sampsons" did not rush to help, because they were involved in the illegal hunting of seals and were afraid of being caught and they sailed away in the opposite direction.
"The Sampson represents egocentric people. People who are so self absorbed that they are unable to see past their own gains and comforts. These are the people who choose to ignore the pain and suffering of the others and work only towards bettering their own lives", observed a bench comprising Justices J B Pardiwala and Ilesh J Vora.
22 kilometers away from the Titanic was the "SS Californian", which was surrounded by ice on all sides and chose to wait till the next day morning as its crew felt that manoeuvring the ship through the ice fields at night would have been challenging.
"The "SS Californian is a metaphor for those individuals who say "I can't do anything". These are people who believe that their hands are tied because the time and situation isn't right", the Court remarked.
"If we wait like the "Californian" for the "right time' we will keep waiting all our lives. We can find hundreds and thousands of reasons and excuses to run way from our responsibilities to help our neighbours. But whoever can find it in their hearts to rise above all these frivolous excuses will always be remembered fondly in history", the Court said.
Farthest away from the sinking Titanic was "The Carpathia". Almost 94 kms away, Captain Arthur Rostron heard the distress cries over the radio but was unsure what direction the cries were coming from.
Regarding the intervention of "The Carpathia", the Court observed :
"Not allowing hopelessness to take over, he (Captain Arthur Rostron) prayed to God to guide him. He knew he was taking a chance when he ordered his ship to turn around and sail full steam in the opposite direction through the dangerous ice fields. That fateful night "Carpathia" was the first ship to respond to the distress of the Titanic. This nine year old ship took three and & half hours to reach the Titanic. She managed to sail at 31 kilometres per hour which was way beyond her quoted top speed. Determined to fight against all odds, that night the "Carpathia" managed to save 705 passengers from the freezing to their deaths. Captain Arthur Ronson was honoured in England and the United States not only for his Valour and Gallantry but also for his unshaken determination to help those in danger".
The Court observed that the tragic saga of the Titanic teaches us that our fate is uncertain, governed by the powerful forces of nature.
"We face a similar tragedy today, in the form of a global pandemic caused by a contagious virus we barely have any power over. What we do have power over is ourselves".
Urging everyone to do the needful to help the community in every manner possible, the Court said ""We all should become the "Carpathia".
"It is paramount that in these unprecedented times of chaos, uncertainty and extreme stress we come together as a community to help the most vulnerable", the Court said.
The Court made these observations while hearing a suo moto petition on the issue of migrant workers and COVID-19 spread in Gujarat.
On May 12, the bench had taken suo moto cognizance after observing that people at large are left hungry due to the lockdown.
"The situation seems to be going out of control. Although the State Government is doing its best to combat the situation, yet we find that something is wrong somewhere. It appears that there is no proper coordination amongst various departments of the State Government. What is most essential as of now is a more humane approach or touch", the Court had observed.
The Court ordered on Friday that the State Government should concentrate more to ensure that people do not go hungry, and passed a slew of directions for managing the COVID-19 situation in Ahmadabad.
The bench observed :
"We request the State Government to continue rendering their best possible help to the migrants, poor and needy, and more particularly, small children. The State Government should concentrate more to ensure that people do not go hungry. In our earlier order, we have observed that the State Government should now start taking help of trustworthy NGOs, volunteers and charitable institutions. The State Government has still to do lot of work and we hope and trust that as each day passes by, the State Government is able to rise to the occasion.
We appreciate the efforts which have been put in by the State Government so far as transportation of the migrants to their respective native States is concerned. We are informed that there are still around four lac migrants in the State of Gujarat who are very eager and restless to reach their respective States. All efforts in this direction shall be put in by the State Government and try to see that the problems and difficulties faced by the migrants are taken care of"
The matter will be next considered on May 29, and the State Government has been directed to file an exhaustive report with respect to all the directions and suggestions, as contained in the order.
The Court also expressed alarm over the high mortality rate in Ahmedabad City Civil Hospital, and directed the State Government to look into the issues.