|Vishwakarma puja pandals set up perilously close to power installations in Bhubaneswar. Pictures by Ashwinee Pati
Bhubaneswar, Sept. 17: One person was electrocuted and four others injured when they came in contact with a high-tension overhead wire while allegedly trying to tap electricity illegally for a Vishwakarma puja pandal at CRP Square here this morning.
Natives of Bengal, they had been hired by the organisers for pandal work.
Eyewitnesses said that the accident took place when the deceased, Ashok Khatai, 40, was trying to throw a hook onto the overhead electric cable. Four others, who tried to rescue him, also received electric shock.
Sources said that Khatai, alongwith four of his colleagues, had climbed atop the pandal for work when he came in contact with the overhead wire around 8am. His associates, who tried to come to his aid, suffered serious injuries. All them fell from the 20-foot pandal following the incident.
Khatai and others were soon rushed to Capital Hospital. He was later shifted to a private hospital in the city where he died.
The four injured, Banamali Maiti, 40, Sunil Bera, 41, Bapi Das, 25, and Nimai Mandal, 37, are being treated at Capital Hospital. Maiti and Bera are said to be in a critical condition.
The incident has exposed the lack of willingness of puja organisers in the city to obtain a secured electric connection from the Central Electricity Supply Utility (Cesu). Though Cesu has a provision for providing electricity during pujas, most of the organisers obtain unsecured connection by hooking from the main cable.
“Most of the major puja committees apply for a connection. But the small ones mostly opt for hooking to get electricity. We have constituted a squad to crackdown on the puja pandals that hook from the main cables,” said a senior Cesu official.
Most of the small puja committees in the city not only violate the norms for safe electric connection, but also defy fire safety arrangements.
“A committee consisting of fire and police officials and puja committees representatives is constituted every year to discuss fire safety measures during Durga Puja and Kali Puja. But such measures are not being adopted during other pujas, including Ganesh Puja and Biswakarma Puja.” said assistant fire officer, Bhubaneswar, Ramesh Majhi.
As the festival season has begun with Ganesh Puja, the city has been witnessing various law and order problems.
Police officials said more than five group clashes had taken place so far during emersion processions.
Residents of various areas of the city also feel that the puja committees must adhere to standardised safety norms, including those to prevent fire.
“Pujas are a part of our vibrant culture. Nowadays, hundreds of pandals are being set up on the occasion of every puja. The celebrations must not create inconvenience for the residents,” said Bidyadhar Mahala, a resident of Rasulgarh.
festive shocker — too close for comfort
WHAT THE RULEBOOK SAYS
Store water in buckets/drums and keep in readiness
for use in case of a fire
Keep one carbon dioxide or Bromochlorodifluoromethane extinguisher of adequate size to protect
Inform in advance fire brigade officials about location, size and type of pandal, number of people it can
accommodate at a time and exit points it has
Always have a responsible person at the pandal
to organise prompt evacuation in case of a mishap
Pandal should have at least two exits of not less than
2 to 5 meters in width
Source: Bureau of Indian Standard, 1993, guidelines for
fire safety in puja pandals
For secured electricity connection, puja
organisers need to apply to Cesu for connection
There are nearly 150 Biswakarma Puja
pandals in city
Cesu charges Rs 150 per day for consumption
of one kilowatt of electricity
Cesu installs meters only when the consumption exceeds three kilowatt
Around 80 per cent of puja organisers
do not apply to Cesu for electricity connection.
They get electricity by hooking from
Cesu officials visit various pandals and penalise those having illegal connections