| Ruma at the hospital. Picture by Nityananda Sarkar
Raiganj, Aug. 28: A girl out to pick flowers early this morning was jolted by a 240-volt electric shock when she walked into a booby trap set up by a neighbour to stop people from stealing flowers from his garden.
Ruma Rajbangshi, 13, is now in hospital with burns on both her hands, near her elbows. She had tried to pull down the branch of a tagar plant from the other side of a boundary wall when she touched the live wire laid there by Utpal Saha, a resident of the Debinagar area in town.
Ruma lives in the same neighbourhood. “I needed some flowers for the rakhi ceremony today,” said the girl from her bed in the Raiganj hospital. “I do not have a brother and was going to tie a rakhi on my cousin.”
Dr Sanjay De, a local physician, said Ruma was lucky to be alive. “If the electric current passing through her body at the moment of contact had gone anywhere near her heart, she would have had a cardiac arrest,” he said.
It later emerged that another woman, Sandhya Chakrabarty, 60, had also received a jolt at the Sahas’ garden earlier in the morning. The local councillor said Saha had been told not to set up the live wire in his garden, but the warning was ignored.
However, when Ruma’s father Adhir Rajbangshi, a rickshaw-puller, went to the Raiganj police station to lodge an FIR against Saha, the on-duty officer allegedly refused to take down the complaint.
“Instead, the officer asked me why my daughter was stealing flowers from someone else’s garden,” said Adhir, who had gone to the police station after admitting his daughter to the hospital.
North Dinajpur police chief Swapan Banerjee Purnapatra, after being told about the incident, said he would personally look into the matter. “The father should submit the complaint directly to me,” the police chief said. “I will find out why Raiganj police did not cooperate.”
Saha, it appeared, has gone into hiding. His garden turned out to be small plot of vacant land in front of the house, surrounded by a 4ft-high wall with a gap where the gate should be. A papaya tree and a few tagar plants stood close to the wall. The tagar branches that reportedly extended beyond the wall — from where Ruma had tried to pick the blossoms — seemed freshly cut.
The live wire was no where in sight.
All the doors and windows of the house were bolted and after much shouting, Saha’s wife Gitanjali came out. “My husband is a cloth merchant. Our lawn and the plants on it are his passion but the neighbours are always picking the flowers and breaking off branches. So my husband hired an electrician who laid the wire to protect the garden,” she said.
Gitanjali added that Saha was not at home.
Apart from the police, Saha will also be in trouble with West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Limited. “It is absolutely illegal to take a connection out of the building and into the garden without there being any bulb or something at the end of it,” said Baidyanath Dutta, an assistant engineer in Birnagar circle.
Dutta said Saha could be charged with “illegal distribution of power”.
The assistant engineer added that it was alternate current that jolted the girl. “She would have been drawn towards the source of the current, but probably hit the wall in between and fell back,” Dutta said.
Local Congress councillor, Rakhal Das, who had earlier warned Saha against rigging the garden with a power line, said: “If he does not publicly apologise to the victims and give them compensation, we will submit a mass petition against him to the police.”
Around noon today, Ruma tied a rakhi on her cousin at the hospital itself.