Written by Jahnavi Rathore, a grade 11 student
Currently, the most talked-about topic in the world is the violent explosion that took place on the afternoon of 4th August at the port of the city of Beirut, the capital of Lebanon. The catastrophic explosion has so far killed at least 200 people and injured around 4,000 with an unknown number of people still trapped underneath the rubbles. Decades of incompetence and graft underpinned a decision to keep a stockpile of close to 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate at the port and store it with combustible substances. The impact of the explosion was so huge that it is now on the list of the most destructive explosions ever. According to world leaders, a tragedy like this was expected due to the negligence of the government authorities and the rampant corruption prevailing in all parts of the country. This explosion has aggregated the citizens to protest against the injustices that have been going on for a long time.
What is happening in Lebanon for the past decade?
All of our attention has diverted towards Lebanon because of the explosion. It is important to understand that the situation of the Lebanese citizens is pernicious and the broken political system has made the living conditions even worse. In this year itself, 37% of the youth is unemployed and in tota 25% are unemployed. One-third of the population is living below the poverty line. The destruction of infrastructure caused by the civil war was never rebuilt because the government did not have enough resources. As a result, the government imposed high taxes on the people to repay their debts. On 17th October 2019, authorities announced taxation on WhatsApp calls as well. Ipso facto, people revolted against the wrongdoings and soon began the October revolution. Seeing the negative response of the people, the government took back the policy at once but it was the tipping point of the citizens. This triggered a revolution and thousands of people of different religions came together to protest against the government. As the country seethed in unrest, the former prime minister announced his resignation from the office. His response made it clear that the future of Lebanon is precarious. With the current economic depreciation and the scare of the blast, one-third of the government has given up their seat forcing the newly elected prime minister to himself resign. The prime minister claimed that corruption was greater than the state and with the growing demand of the people for a real change, the government took a step back to support them.
Who has the responsibility or the authority of the port?
The port is controlled by two organizations – Customs authority and the port authority. The former is loyal to the president whereas the latter is not. A mismatch of communication led to a disastrous outcome. Not only does this show the dereliction of duty but also makes us think about the broken political system.
What is the political system of this country?
After finally becoming a liberal nation in 1943, the newly formed government promised equal representation of all the religions(national pact) in the parliament. In Lebanon, people belong to at least 18 religions, but the majority belong to 3 religions- Sunni, Shia, and Christians. The government promised to not let any religion feel left out or get any fewer opportunities than the others. But on the contrary, the national leaders formulated a rule which stated that only a person who belongs to the Sunni community can become a prime minister, the president can only be a Maronite Christian and the parliament speaker shall always be a Shia Muslim. As an immediate consequence, every religious community formed its political party who advocated its interests only. This led to a huge drift among the people of Lebanon and even led to a civil war (1975-1990).
Because of this inept political system, each political party blames one another and every year massive destruction is caused to both life and property.
How has this affected the people?
As stated in the above points, this has left the country in turmoil and massive destruction. Due to so many factors that kept on building over the years, it is the people who have to face the consequences of the decisions taken by the untrustworthy government. Today, Lebanon is facing a crisis and everything goes back to the erroneous political system.
Jahnavi is, a 15-year-old student currently studying in DPS RK Puram in 11th grade. She enjoys writing.