Electrocution: Bescom's shocking callousness

It looks as though no week passes in Karnataka without electrocution being reported either from Bengaluru or from other part of the state. The regularity with which the toll has been going up because of death caused by electric shock is alarming. In the last five years, the state has witnessed over 500 people paying with their lives for no fault of theirs but due to the callousness of the authorities manning electricity lines. Most deaths were accidental and have taken place as innocent victims, especially children, came in contact with live wires. Overhead electric wires snap as trees fall on them or electric poles fall or are damaged due to heavy rain and gusty winds. Electrocution deaths are typically higher in the monsoon season. Overall, most such deaths have taken place in Bengaluru. According to Bescom, the power distribution company for Bengaluru, 90% of existing electricity wiring in the city is bare overhead wire — some 12,000 km of it in all.

Bescom, notoriously callous when it comes to safety, is the culprit. These many deaths would not have happened had Bescom and other connected authorities acted and taken proper preventive measures. There are guidelines as to where these high-voltage transmission lines, should be drawn, how far they should be away from human habitation, etc. These guidelines are observed mostly in the breach, and authorities have turned a blind eye to the lapses. The Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation Limited (KPTCL) and Bescom have huge manpower resources at their disposal. That’s why it’s all the more shocking that their monitoring/vigilance wings can be so careless. How did the authorities, and that includes Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike, give permission to people to build houses right under high-tension wires? Is any patrolling done along the transmission lines, which Bescom/KPTCL are supposed to do? If they had, habitations would not have come up along the high-tension wires. Why do electric poles keep getting damaged? Are they of substandard quality? Not much attention is given to these details, especially in urban areas, and Bescom and its Managing Director C Shikha should take responsibility for the lapses.

Following the deaths, the authorities are now talking of undertaking a survey to lay the electric cables underground. Mayor Gangambike has asked Bescom to submit a report on the matter by June 15. This project is estimated to cost a formidable sum — Rs 5,300 crore. Taking underground over 12,000 km of bare overhead wire is a massive task. There is a need to assess the dangers involved and to make the public, and even KPTCL and Bescom themselves, aware of the issues involved in the project.  

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