It is no question that poverty has usually been affiliated with death. Lack of proper medical care, food, and money force those living in high-poverty areas to fight daily for their survival. On Sunday, an unusual poverty-related incident resulted in over 150 deaths and more than 100 serious injuries.
This past Sunday, a tanker truck overturned on a road in eastern Pakistan and thousands of gallons of fuel spilled from the truck. For those unaware, in Pakistan, fuel is an extremely high-value commodity. Consequently, as expected, hundreds of men, women, and children rushed toward the truck without hesitation to collect the spilt and leaking fuel. For nearly an hour, people from nearby villages and passers-by, pulling over in their cars and motorbikes, collected the fuel, despite warnings from police officers advising people to stay away from the scene.
Because of the value of fuel in Pakistan, locals would not allow any warnings or potential risks to restrain them from obtaining fuel for free, which is understandable considering the circumstances. People brought bottles, pots, buckets, and other utensils that could collect the fuel. The people planned to both sell and use this fuel for themselves. Soon afterwards, the truck caught on fire and exploded, resulting in 150 deaths and at least 100 serious injuries.
Makhdoom Syed Hassan Gillani, the parliamentary representative of Ahmedpur East, the small city in Punjab Province where the disaster occurred, argued that poverty was 100 percent to blame. He claimed, “It was poverty. It was greed. It was ignorance.”
Was it ignorance?
Perhaps ignorance resulted in these deaths. Perhaps if these individuals had been compliant and understanding of the dangers that came with placing themselves in an area of such risk, these deaths and injuries could have been avoided- but maybe not.
Perhaps the potential positive results outweighed the potential negative outcome so much that the risk had to be taken. Perhaps they were not worried about putting their lives in danger because their lives had always been in danger. For that reason, ignorance may not quite be the correct term to describe this situation. Rather, the decisions made by those affected ought to be described as obligatory.
The Pakistanis didn’t have much to lose; a different value is put on life when a daily battle for survival has to be put forth. In order for those living in poverty to get out, risks have to be taken, and that they were. Of course, simply recovering some extra fuel wouldn’t be enough to get an individual out of poverty, but it sure could help them get on their feet and start walking.
Life is not valued the same in many high-poverty, underdeveloped countries. Death is more common, and what is considered as suffrage to those living in wealthy countries is the norm for the poor. As such, it would be ignorant in itself to blame these individuals for running towards what they saw as a potential happy ending to their demanding lives.
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