Feeling Chile


Finally, theyre all out. The Chilean miners, whose fate had the world waiting with baited breath, have been lifted out of their rocky underground prison in a truly gripping human drama. One that made for good press as well, as an estimated 1500 journalists were at the scene of this rescue of 33 miners. It is a time of celebration in Chile, as well as the end of a harrowing two-and-a-half months for the families of the trapped miners.

Amongst the nations glued to their screens were Pakistanis. And comparisons are inevitable. The paternalistic approach of the Chilean state, which had taken care of even the smallest aspect of the rescue mission has been much talked about; (Nasa had been contacted not just for the rescue mission but initially, to advise the trapped miners on how to stay physically fit throughout their ordeal). Look at how the Pakistani government is handling the flood situation and look at the ingenious methods in the employ of the smiling Chilean President, who has been greeting the rescued miners as they were coming up. Such comparisons, though always welcome in the public discourse, can be unfair. For starters, the mine drama is dwarfed by the magnitude of the floods. The latter is one of the biggest disasters of recent times, whereas the former, as mentioned earlier, simply makes good TV. Secondly, the Chileans are a relatively better off people than us; the size of our economy might be bigger than theirs but their per capita income certainly outstrips ours several times over. They are accorded certain standards that are not, unfortunately, applied in our part of the world.

What has to be said for the effort, however, is that the Chilean government has displayed a persistence, tenacity and most, importantly, proactivity. It didnt throw in the towel as our government has a predisposition to, citing limited resources; they worked around the problem and solved it. Another aspect is that of their political leadership having their finger on the pulse of the publics mood. Times like these foster a spirit of nationalism; they are not to be squandered off flying in helicopters over chateaus.