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The Accidental Tourist

by | 6th, September 2006

LOOK out! Ooops. Too late.

It was meant to be chance for David Cameron to look good, worthy even. But it turned out to be something else.

Sure, the Times has a lovely picture of Dave is a Mumbai slum (the paper resolutely sticks with the city’s old name of Bombay), surrounded by healthy looking, smiling Indian children.

Aren’t they lovely. And such brightly coloured clothes. Who needs hoodies, this year’s sports athletic shoes and footballs? Not smiling Indian children, who can expect to make such goods in sweatshops. This photo’s a keeper, one for the Cameron family album.

But things did not all go to plan. “Worlds collide in Bombay slums,” says the headline above the news that as Dave and his three-vehicle entourage drove away from the slum, one of the motors collides with a local.

It was Prema Naik’s misfortune to be hit. The 55-year-old woman (the Telegraph says she is in her mid-60s), who earns £34 a month making T-shirts, is said to be seriously injured. She is “clinging to life”. Her clothes are “soaked in blood”.

And the trauma does not end there. As the monsoon rains fell, locals surrounded the mini bus that had struck Prema, the bus carrying British journalists, party aides and an unnamed diplomat.

The driver, a man called Samson, was dragged out of the vehicle and beaten up. This, as the Times tells its readers, is a “common mob reaction in India”.

This is a “very unfortunate accident”, says Vicki Treadell, the British Deputy High Commissioner. She says the British authorities will “pay due compensation, if that’s appropriate”.

It’s hard to imagine compensation ever being inappropriate. The only issue is how much is apt? Is compensation based on Prema’s wage and loss of earnings? Or is any sum based on a more globalised concept of what is fair? Should Prema and her family be given hundreds of thousands of pounds, or millions?

From being a simple meet and greet exercise, the trip has the potential to turn into something far bigger…



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