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Shocked, power firm acts

- APDCL fences exposed transformers after deaths

Guwahati, Dec. 29: Two deaths by electrocution in 2013 in Guwahati did what 1,077 similar deaths across Assam since 2006 could not.

The death of 39-year-old Basanti Devi in May and 31-year-old Manab Barman in September shook the Assam power department to make safety its top priority.

The department began to fence its high-voltage electric transformers that remained open in “extremely dangerous” conditions for years.

Basanti Devi, a mother of three, had died after she stepped on a pipe that carried an uncovered wire across a footpath in Anil Nagar while Barman died after he came in contact with a light posts with an exposed cable in Ganeshguri.

Soon after the two incidents, two reports in The Telegraph — on September 17 and September 19 — highlighted how safety was neglected despite 1,007 electrocution deaths since 2006. A day after the news reports, Assam Power Distribution Company Limited (APDCL) swung into action and began fencing the transformers in Guwahati.

The company fenced 261 of its 4,469 high-voltage transformers in the first phase. “Work on the second phase is under way. We want to fence as many as we can before the monsoon,” said the deputy general manager of Guwahati electrical circle-I, Dulal Saikia, today.

Assam power minister Pradyut Bordoloi immediately called a meeting, pulled up his officials and asked the APDCL to plug the loopholes pointed out in a survey report of the office of the chief electrical inspector-cum-adviser in July.

Prior to that, a series of letters written by the chief electrical inspector-cum-adviser to the principal secretary of the power department, the chief general manager (distribution) of the company and the chief manager, Lower Assam Electricity Distribution Company Ltd, in the past five years, failed to grab the APDCL’s attention.

After Basanti Devi’s death, the office of chief electrical inspector-cum-adviser selected 100 high-voltage (11kV or more) transformers in the city for a sample study and found “most of them are in an extremely dangerous condi-tion”. The findings were ignored by the company till Manab Barman died in September and The Telegraph highlighted the “negligence” of the APDCL.

The year 2013 saw the APDCL waking up to the need of safety in Guwahati but the question remains: will the company fence hundreds of other open transformers in markets, streets and near the schools across the state?

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