In last three months around seven deaths were reported from across Kashmir of people who put their lives at risk for sake of electrifying our homes. These linemen are at the forefront of risk whenever a snag happens. Without proper equipments or backup these linemen literally play with livewires to get their jobs done, but are their sacrifices acknowledged? The most important question is: are we learning anything at all from these repeated incidents of mishaps, often resulting in death or permanent disabilities. The answer is perhaps no. There are no lessons learnt when it comes to safeguard the lives of linemen. They are as neglected a lot now, as they have been years ago.
Recently a PDD lineman Ghulam Nabi of Pahalgam was electrocuted while repairing a HT wire. Another shocking incident was reported from remote Badyan village when a teacher came in contact with a livewire inside a school premises. He died of his burns after struggling for a few hours at a local hospital. Another PDD lineman was electrocuted to death while repairing a HT line in Handwara. He too succumbed to his injuries. The list goes on.
But the official apathy is not limited to lineman only; almost all such “invisible jobs” are full of life threatening challenges. Take for instance the people who keep our roads clean. Despite keeping the city in good shape, they live highly isolated and miserable lives. Though, they might not be working directly under dangerous circumstances, as is the case with lineman, but they too are living neglected lives. Their stories, or the dangers they face while performing their duties, often go neglected.
In last 20 years around 15 linemen were killed from Nowpora Kalan village in Baramullah only. Known as the lineman village of Kashmir, Nowpora has given around 400 linemen to PDD since 1947. But the tragedies and the official apathy that follows such tragedies are severing Nowpora’s connection with PDD quicker than anticipated. Reason. Families of linemen killed while performing their duties are living in abject poverty, setting a bad example for potential employees.
There is need for a comprehensive policy to safeguard the lives of those who do ‘dirty work’ for us. Let’s start with insuring their lives so that their families can manage decent living if a lineman is electrocuted or disabled while performing his duty. His families should not be forced to live in penury, as is the case. Instead let us give them respect for what they are doing and not look down upon them as mere workers, they are much more than that, heroes to say the least.