Electrocution deaths are common in North-east. Most of them are forgotten as ‘unfortunate’ incidents. The criminal neglect behind such mishaps is often ignored. The government and authorities concerned end their responsibility by paying some compensation to the victim families. For six lives lost including five minor children at Mawphlang near Shillong, Rs 6 lakh was announced as ex gratia. The compensation is clearly meagre, but what is totally absent is an inquiry. It is alleged that the authorities ignored complaints from the family about sparks in the meter box that connects the main supply line. And the mishap occurred almost wiping out an entire family!

In this instance, the ill-fated house was all made of tin, a good conductor of electricity! As soon as one point of the wall (?) got in contact with electricity, the whole house became electrified. Repeat such tragedy cannot be ruled out as poor people in Meghalaya use the cheap tin, mostly recycled from edible oil containers, for making houses. The mistake made by the linesman in this case was that he fixed the meter box directly into the tin wall, and not on a wood plank as commonly used. There might be another linesman making the same mistake unless the Meghalaya Energy Corporation Ltd (MeECL) takes notice of the loophole.

The debt-ridden MeECL perhaps cannot even think of holding awareness programmes for its field personnel. If at all they are taught about anything is how to make the consumer pay for the electricity. Expecting MeECL to make aware the consumers about the safe use of electricity is perhaps a wild imagination. But, if not MeECL, who will do it? Lives cannot be allowed to be lost like this! The electricity distribution company (discom) cannot expect that all the consumers will get their own knowledge about electricity. Being in the business, it’s the discom’s responsibility to ensure safety of consumers and common people from electricity-related mishaps. Besides ensuring safe electrification of the houses, the discom must erect solid barriers around all high-voltage installations like transformers. It’s time discoms like MeECL came out of its old school and be professional in owning up such mishaps and take remedial measures.

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on November 5, 2016)