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Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Who is responsible for the mess?

A true EPISODE spiced with fiction, in the form of a short story is here, as a stimulus to your brain to judge – who is responsible for the mess?

The wheat crop of a Nation failed miserably. The nation was put on the brink of famine and had to go on kneels with a begging bowl in hand to feed its population through the year. The Nation had to make many military concessions, threatening its integrity for many years to come.  Any delay in getting the grains from other nations threatened existence of its livestock, which people would have slaughtered to feed themselves and put the Nation back by 5-6 years. Getting the requisite quantity from open market, pushed up food prices all over the world. It was not only the Nation in question but also the entire population of the world, who paid the price of an incidence. The monthly budget of all families across world went haywire and many people could not manage two square meals. 
A scientist had successfully protected the crops against weather since last three years, which no body else did previously and he had brought the Nation to be self sufficient in the matter of food grain, in the preceding three years as against an import of 15 % of its total requirement per year, in the previous three decades. Report of incidence of the current years impending crop failure, was read out before group of Ministers by the scientist.   
With a deep breath the scientist stared down at his papers and plunged straight into his report -------- “ Last December and January our long range weather forecast satellites predicted an unusually damp weather and early spring. As a result and in accordance with habitual scientific practice it was decided at The Ministry of Agriculture that our seed grain for spring planting should be dressed with a prophylactic dressing to inhibit fungoid infections that would probably be prevalent as a result of dampness. This has been done in the past with very encouraging results.
The dressing selected was a dual-purpose seed dressing; an organo mercury compound to inhibit fungoid attack on the germinating grain and a pesticide and bird repellant called Lindane. It was agreed in scientific committee that because our country, following the unfortunate damage through frost to the winter wheat crop, would need at least a hundred and forty million tons of crop from winter wheat plantings, it would be necessary to sow six and a quarter million tons of seed grain”.
The scientist further went on “ At the rate of two ounces of organo-mercury seed per ton of grain, the requirement was for three hundred and fifty tons of dressing. There were only seventy tons in stock. An immediate order was sent to the manufacturing plant for this dressing to go into immediate production to make up the required two hundred and eighty tons. As you all know there is only one factory with facility to produce this dressing. The requirement does not justify many such factories to survive. The said factory is a major chemical plant, making many insecticides, weed killers, fertilizers and so forth. The production of two hundred and eighty tons of chemical would take less than forty-eight hours.
         Due to a confusion in communication, the factory was undergoing annual maintenance, and time was running short if the dressing was to be distributed to the one hundred and twenty seven dressing stations for seed grain scattered across the country, the grain treated and then taken back to thousands of locations and farms in time for planting. So a young and  energetic official was deputed from capital to hurry things along . He ordered the workmen to terminate what they were doing, restore the plant to operating order and start it functioning again.
         The factory started work again, although the maintenance engineers had not quite finished. But something malfunctioned-a hopper valve. Lindane is a very powerful chemical and the dosage of Lindane to the remainder of organo-mercury compound has to be strictly regulated.
         The valve on the Lindane hopper, although registering one third open on the control panel, was in fact stuck at full open, the whole two hundred and eighty tons was affected.
         Further, there was a conjunction of coincidence and error, the Chief analytical and quality control chemist was away on holiday at south of country during the plant shut down. He was summoned back by cable. Because of fog he had to divert and continue his return by slow trains. When he arrived production was complete.  
         The chemist insisted on quality control tests. The young and energetic official from capital to hurry things along wanted the entire production shipped at once. An argument ensued. In the end a compromise was reached. The chemist wanted to test every tenth bag of dressing, 28 bags in all. The young and energetic official from capital insisted he will give only one. That was when an additional error was added to the episode.
         The new bags had been stacked along with the reserve stock of seventy tons left over from last year. In the warehouse one of the loaders, receiving a report to send one single bag to the laboratory for testing, selected one of the old bags. Tests proved it was perfectly in order and the entire consignment was shipped.
         The effect of an excessive component of Lindane in organo-mercury compound is that it causes a toxic effect against the germinating seed in the ground, rather than a protective effect. The seedlings come up, if at all, stunted sparse and mottled brown. There is virtually no grain yield from such affected stems.
         Seventy tons of reserve compound was perfectly all right. The two hundred and eighty tons of new compound was all affected. Thus four fifth of seeds were affected and an equal amount of crop will be lost.
         Further investigations revealed that warehouseman was simply of exceptionally low intelligence. He was instructed to send one bag to laboratory, which he did. Neither the instructions were explicit about any particular bag nor he enquired about it. The chemist was reported to “ deserted his function” in spite of the fact that none of his request was considered. Maintenance team engineers claimed they demanded and received written instructions to wind up their work before they had finished. The young and energetic official from capital, creating an aura of wisdom and authority, was found an ambitious idiot trying to over-fulfill his orders   
         The silence in the room was murderous.

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