Residents of Geddalahalli in Sanjaynagar staged a protest on Saturday evening against unauthorised and hanging cables. The protest comes days after 22-year-old Kishore was electrocuted by a hanging cable on April 25 evening.
Vignan Gowda, one of the residents who protested, said that in December last, the residents’ association had written to the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), drawing the attention of the civic officials to the unauthorised digging and illegal cables being drawn in the locality.
“None of the civic utilities, BBMP or Bengaluru Electricity Supply Company (Bescom) have taken any action in the interest of public safety,” the protesting residents charged. They took out a protest march from Geddalahalli to Nagashettyhalli on Sanjaynagar Main Road, demanding that all hanging cables be removed.
Kishore’s death due to electrocution, albeit by a snapped internet cable, is the second electrical accident this month. On April 13, Vasant, a 21-year-old man, was electrocuted after coming in contact with a live wire in Mangammanapalya.
H.M. Manjunath, acting chairman and member of the Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commission (KERC), did not mince words and that if the electrical accidents increase, the commission would be forced to issue a notice to Bescom.
The High Court of Karnataka, he said, was also closely monitoring the electrical accidents and was hearing a case pertaining to it. The court has issued directions to all electricity supply companies and KERC to take corrective steps for public safety.
“KERC also issues directions with regard to safety in all its tariff orders. While KERC cannot get into the escoms’ administrative domain, the State Government should take action. We have raised the issue with Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai and Minister for Energy V. Sunil Kumar. The Additional Chief Secretary of the Department of Energy should take serious note of this,” he said.
Bescom, on its part, claims that several measures have been taken to reduce electrical accidents. One of the major efforts in this regard, Bescom officials said, was the underground cabling and aerial bunching of cables project. The project was approved by the State Government in 2019-20, and the work order for phase 1 and 2 was issued in March 2020. However, the work on ground began only in July-August 2020 due to the outbreak of the pandemic.
Bescom has achieved nearly 70% progress in the ₹ 5,030 crore project, with work under phase 1 and 2 nearly complete. Work on phase 3 and 4 is under progress. “By the end of September, we hope to complete the project,” an official said.
He added that all cables are being laid nearly 1.5-meters deep underground using the horizontal directional drilling (HDD) method. This was to ensure that the electrical cables are not damaged by any of the other service providers, such as BBMP, Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board or the various internet and telecom service providers.
The High Court recently took the power utility to task over the delay in shifting the transformers from the footpath. Bescom officials said that of the 2,588 transformers on footpaths, 59 had been so far transferred. Funds amounting to ₹ 146 crore had been set aside to shift the remaining transformers. Though first proposed more than 2 years ago, there has been negligible progress, admit officials. “We have given ourselves 6 months to complete the shifting,” officials said.
Following the transformer blast case in Kengeri where two persons were killed, Bescom has been taking up inspection of all 4 lakh transformers under its jurisdiction. Of these, over 59,000 are in Bengaluru.
“We have already inspected 31,000 transformers. These transformers are being checked thoroughly to ascertain if there is any hazard to public safety, if there are oil leakages, wiring issues… basically, the overall health of the transformer is ascertained,” said P. Rajendra Cholan, managing director of Bescom, adding that following this exercise, a one-time maintenance of all transformers would be taken up.
Senior Bescom officials claimed that over the past few years, the number of electrical accidents had come down. The power utility conducts safety meetings every Monday for all staff members. Linemen and others are also made to take a safety oath, apart from being entrusted with the responsibility of distributing safety pamphlets to the citizens from time to time. Safety also takes prime importance during the consumer interaction meetings that are held on every third Saturday of a month.