Escoms found wanting as 900 electrocuted in state

The electrocution of two children in Koppal district has triggered intense public angst across the state. Countering the claims of the government that prioritises the safety of citizens, the state is witness to back-to-back incidents of electrocution in recent times. In less than a month’s time, close to a dozen people, including seven children, have died due to electrocution.

Call it sheer ignorance on the part of the people or cavalier attitude of the Energy Department in identifying potential threats in their limits, mortality due to electrocution is steadily increasing with each passing year.

Data of electrocution deaths accessed by DH from the five electrical supply companies (escoms) and Electrical Inspectorate shows that there seems to be a competition among escoms in the number of electrocution deaths. Even though the escoms have taken a number of measures for the safety of their personnel, there seems to be none when it comes to the lives of the public.

In the last three years alone, in the five escoms, about 900 people have died due to electrocution, apart from 69 department staffers. Even though the Energy department has successfully reduced the number of departmental casualties, an increasing number of the public are dying due to electrocution.

Bescom, with eight districts in its jurisdiction, witnessed the highest number of deaths (278) in the last three years, followed by Gulbarga electricity supply company with 181 deaths and Hubballi electricity supply company with 166 electrocution deaths.

Shockingly, 2018-19 witnessed a big increase in the electrocution deaths (465 people across the state), while it was just 350 in 2017-18. Up to June in 2019-20, about 90 people have died due to electrocution.

Mahendra Jain, Additional Chief Secretary, Department of Energy, told DH that the rise in the number of electrocution deaths was due to unauthorised constructions.

“People construct buildings with utter disregard to safety, just near to high-tension (HT) lines. As per a recent study by Bescom, Bengaluru alone has 12,000 buildings that are dangerously close to HT cables. In most cases, it is the sheer negligence of the public that results in deaths. The department has spent about Rs 5 crore on creating awareness through various platforms. As it requires a systematic approach to address the issue, we will soon hold discussions with the engineers to bring down mortality.”

S Badarinath, an Energy expert, said, “Most of the electrocution deaths are accidents. The victims may have unknowingly come in contact with live electricity lines. But people alone cannot be blamed for the tragedy as it is equally important for the energy department to be vigilant about the condition of transmission lines in their jurisdiction. Just holding
awareness programmes and leaving everything to the discretion of the public does not serve any purpose. It so happens that the escom staffers may not know if the lines have snapped unless it is brought to their notice.”  

With inputs from Gayathri V Raj (Mysuru), Harsha (Mangaluru), Gururaj (Kalaburagi) and Pavan (Hubballi) 

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