At Work is a weekly column

The 60-member team of N. Ranga Electrical Services is probably the busiest team of electricians in the city, yet happy. Busy, because for the last three weeks they have been running helter-skelter to make arrangements for the two-hour-long opening ceremony of the new Secretariat building on Saturday.

Over 2,000 metal halide lamps, nearly one lakh bulbs and 25 heavy-duty generators, among others, are being deployed at a cost of Rs.50 lakh for the programme.

“It is a big wedding and like a 20-20 cricket match. We have been given a free hand to put up our best. Plus it is critical as the who's who are going to attend the function,” says N. R. Harikrishnan, who runs the company with his brother N.R. Sridhar Kumar. They are carrying oh the business started by their father in the 1940s and their speciality remains the illumination work at government functions. “The reflection of lights and colour coordination are a few things that make our role important,” says Mr. Harikrishnan.

Amid the various departments involved in putting up an event, electrical works get little credit, say electricians. Nevertheless, they play a crucial role in the success of a programme.

From ensuring the working of street-lights through the night to the more complex task of repairing motors, there are dime-a-dozen electricians but finding a good hand to attend to a job immediately is a task in itself.

In the last 15 years as an electrician, Senthil Kumar has taken up the simplest job of indoor electrical works to the complex task of lighting up public functions. “I only studied till Class V and learnt the work, observing others. If you know the basic and with experience, it is easier to upgrade yourself with the latest in technology,” says Kumar, a private contractor, heading to light up a marriage hall in Red Hills.

“Every assignment involved is different but the salary of Rs.7,500 is less for long hours that I need to put in,” says Mr. Kumar.

It is not just the odd working hours that electricians have to deal with, as there's also risk involved in climbing tall structures and dealing with live wires.

Competition and lack of adequate manpower make it difficult for some electrical companies to survive in the rat race.

According to R.Madurai, State president, Tamil Nadu Electrical Contractors Central Wiremen Association, there are around 8,000 licensed electricians in Tamil Nadu who are eligible to bid for government functions. Besides being one of the toughest tasks, an electrical contract requires a lot of accountability. “We get around 15 days to complete the work, before which we have to do a lot of running around to get approvals from different people. Two days before the actual event we also put up a rehearsal before the officials, says Mr. Madurai.

“The cost of a basic four-day event of lighting up a programme venue ranges between Rs.60,000 and Rs.2 lakh. This again goes up depending on how flashy the organisers want the event to be,” he adds.

Today, the scale of events, load of power and kind of distribution have increased many times, say electricians, for which they have to move with times.

S.A. Jayabalan completed Class XII to take up electrical works. Today, he runs his own audio business company and organises shows abroad too. “I get help from my graduate son who completed his engineering,” says Mr. Jayabalan.

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