Consumers complain of lackadaisical attitude, scared of precarious overhead lines
K. Gnanasekaran is a regular commuter between Koodal Pudur and Mudakathan here and every time he passes through Pennycuick Road, he says, it sends shivers down his spine to look at two of a series of overhead electric poles slanting precariously.
“It is scary even to imagine what would happen if the live wire gets snapped during the ongoing monsoon period. With water on the ground and overhead electric cables lying low, it would be a ticking time bomb,” he says with fear in his eyes.
Not very different is the reaction of R.M. Valliappan of Gomathipuram who is shocked to see a damaged overhead pole serving as a focal point for multiple service connections near his residence.
The cement concrete on the pole at Poongavanam Street has peeled off making the iron rods inside it visible. Death due to electrocution has become a common phenomenon during the rainy season due to the failure of the Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation (TANGEDCO) officials to carry out comprehensive pre-monsoon inspections as mandated under the Tamil Nadu Electricity Distribution Code, he claims.
Concurring with him, S. Muthukumar, an advocate, points out that numerous judgments passed by the Madras High Court Bench in the recent years ordering compensation for the family members of victims of electrocution are sufficient to prove the lackadaisical attitude of the TANGEDCO officials.
“There are numerous cases of deaths of children, women and the aged after they stepped on electric wires that had snapped during heavy winds and rains. In every case, TANGEDCO had termed the incident an ‘act of God.’ I don’t know how God could be held responsible for officials’ failure,” he wonders.
The lawyer also points out that claiming compensation in cases of electrocution becomes a cumbersome process as it takes years together for civil cases to see the light of the day. “Even if we try to seek remedy within a couple of years through writ petitions, TANGEDCO delays disbursement by filing appeals,” he adds.
He also points out that Rule 91 of the Indian Electricity Rules - 1956 states that every overhead line erected on any part of a street or other public place or in any factory or mine or any consumer’s premises should be protected with relevant device for rendering the line electrically harmless in case it breaks.
“To my knowledge, I have never come across the TANGEDCO having covered overhead lines with such protective devices that makes the cable harmless in case of snapping. If such devices are fixed, incidents of electrocution would come down drastically,” he says.
V. Thanigaivel Murugan, Programme Manager of 108 Ambulance Service, says that the fleet of ambulances attached to his concern attend to many cases of electrocution during the rainy season.
“Recently, three people were electrocuted near Silaiman. Our team rushed them to the hospital. Yet, one of them died and the other two are under treatment,” he adds.
Refuting claims of officials failing to take preventive measures, M. Balasubramanian, Superintending Engineer (Madurai Metro), TANGEDCO, says that it is mandatory for the jurisdictional engineers to conduct pre-monsoon inspections. As per rules, one-sixth of the height of an overhead pole must be under the ground so that the pole would be able to withstand heavy winds.
“We follow the rule scrupulously,” he says.
Stating that TANGEDCO had been trying to provide the best of the services possible to its consumers, he says that it had now introduced a facility for consumers in the Municipal Corporation limits to lodge complaints round the clock about power cuts.
“A 24-hour computerised centre for resolving power cut issues has been established at TANGEDCO’s office in K. Pudur here. Consumers can lodge their complaints over phone by dialling 2520601, 2520603, 2568670, 2568671, 2568672,” he says.