No lessons learnt; Another PDD worker suffers life-threatening burns on duty

DESPITE RISING CASES, SAFETY GEAR ELUDES EMPLOYEES; AUTHORITIES UNMOVED

ZEHRU NISSA
Srinagar, Publish Date: May 20 2017 1:15AM | Updated Date: May 20 2017 1:15AM
No lessons learnt; Another PDD worker suffers life-threatening burns on dutyFile Photo

Five year old Arbeena refuses to go home, her eyes glued to her father’s face in the Burn Ward of SMHS hospital.

“Papa, have some tea,” she tells her father Muhammad Rafiq in a tender voice who responds with a smile.

Twenty four year old Rafiq from Seer (Mattan) in Anantnag, a casual laborer with the Power Development Department (PDD), is battling severe electric burns in his body, allegedly due to the negligence on part of the authorities concerned. 

Rafiq suffered severe burns in his back, chest, right shoulder and left arm when he was repairing an 11 KV line in Seer Hamdan on May 14th. His burnt, injured body  is bandaged, and he writhes in pain even four days after the incident, making it difficult for him to eat or drink.

“He had just climbed the electric pole at around 5 pm on May 14 to repair the fault when suddenly the line got charged again resulting in the incident,” narrated Muhammad Akbar, Rafiq’s uncle. “The sudden restoration of power led to this condition of our son.” 

In deep shock, the family as well as the doctors term Rafiq’s survival as miracle. Father of two daughters, Arbeena and another aged 6 months, Rafiq, according to his uncle has been working as casual laborer with the PDD for past four years.

Numerous PDD men have either lost their lives or suffered life threatening and disabling injuries while on duty owing to alleged negligence on part of the authorities concerned and failure to equip workers with safety tools. Principally, authorities have time and again failed dismally to fix responsibility on restoration of lines while repairs were underway and Rafiq’s tragic tale is no different.

Earlier this year, death of at least seven PDD men and injuries to around 10 employees, while on duty, led to public outcry following which the department assured to equip its men with the safety gear and take the required measures for their safety.

However, despite the assurances little has changed on the ground. 

“His survival is a miracle. He could have lost his life in the accident,” says a doctor who examines his wounds.

Although there are no official estimates about casualties or injuries to workers, the Electric Employees Union puts the number of casualties per year at 15 on average with 20 more ending up with severe burns, mostly requiring amputations. 

A few months back, when visuals of a PDD worker losing life on a high tension line in Srinagar went viral, the Department promised that safety gears would be provided to its workers on priority. However, these PDD workers can be spotted working without prescribed safety gear on transmission lines even in the summer capital here.

“What will he do now? This thought makes me restless,” sighs Rafiq’s mother as she turns towards Arbeena and continues: “She (Arbeena) refuses to go home without her father. She is too attached to him.” 

A specialist doctor said Rafiq has a “long way to go” before he starts his life again. “He needs continuous treatment and multiple grafts,” he said.