In Shahin Bagh, Damocles sword hangs over head

In Shahin Bagh, Damocles sword hangs over head

 Living in a place where death hangs literally over his head, 15-year-old Salim is nonchalant when asked whether he fears living in a house over which a 220 KV power line passes.

“I fear only one entity in this world; that’s Allah,” he says. Not all residents of southeast Delhi’s Shahin Bagh’s sabzi mandi area, however, are as fearless as the teenager.

“It is a major issue here, indeed. We also fear for the safety of our near and dear ones, but what can we do? We have been living here for more than 10 years. Going somewhere else is not an option for us now,” said Ghazali, a tailor.

According to Central Electricity Authority regulations, no building should be constructed under existing power lines, and there should be a 35-metre right of way for a 220 KV transmission line (17.5 metres on each side) and 52 metres for a 400 KV line.

However, there are around 10,000 households in more than 40 ‘unauthorised colonies’ who are living in defiance of these regulations, said Rishi Raj, spokesman for Delhi Transco Limited, the state power transmission utility for the capital..

About 10 days back, two labourers died in Shahin Bagh when they were fitting tiles on the first floor of an under-construction building over which the high tension wires passed.
While operating on a tiles-cutter machine, they accidentally came within the force field of the cables and got pulled in.

Labour died
One labourer died on spot and another was rushed to hospital in a critical condition.
He later succumbed to his injuries.  

After the accident, officials from South Delhi Municipal Corporation, Delhi Transco Limited and Delhi Police visited the spot and spoke to the residents.

“They asked us to leave the place, but we told them that there are so many people living under these power lines in the city. All of a sudden, we can’t just pack our bags and leave for somewhere else. Then we took the matter with our MLA and came to the conclusion that we all should bear the price of the relocation of the power line,” said Ghazali.

“The line should either be moved somewhere else, or it should be buried under the ground.”

‘Bear cost’
“The Central government, Delhi government, and all the concerned authorities should bear the cost along with us who live under these power lines,” he added.

But the cost, according to Delhi Transco Limited official, is prohibitive.

Relocating around 1,000 km of power lines in the city would cost a bomb to the exchequer, and in some cases it’s not even technically possible.

“To relocate a power line is not that easy, we need to have an alternative route first of all. And for the underground line, we need huge funding.


 Why should we reward people for doing something illegal,” Rishi Raj said.

The matter is currently shuttling between one authority and the other, with the power utility shooting off letters to city’s land owning agencies, trying to get the land under the power lines cleared from unauthorised occupants.

However, for the residents of Shahin Bagh’s sabzi mandi area, more mundane issues take precedence.

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