The vegetable market at Harmu in Ranchi on Monday. Picture by Hardeep Singh
A vegetable market in the heart of Ranchi, which is the nutrition bank of more than 50,000 residents, is without power for the past two days because a young generator mechanic who had been lighting up vendor stalls for the past five years was electrocuted on Saturday.
The Harmu Market, the only daily green mart in this residential neighbourhood and the source of livelihood for 200-odd vendors for 10 years now, has always been a stepchild of the state power board and has never had proper supply.
Rakesh Kumar (24), a helping hand of private generator operator Sabhapati Mahto, powered vendor lives in lieu of Rs 15 per bulb per day until May 10, when he died fixing connection to the local Allahabad Bank branch. The incident prompted Mahto, who is said to be a close relative of Rakesh, to wind up business.
Result: darkness descended on Harmu Market and it may remain so till vendors are relocated to a “permanent” complex coming up in the vicinity.
“The mechanic came in contact with a live overhead electric wire while repairing the storm-battered line to Allahabad Bank around 9.30pm on Saturday. He was declared brought dead at Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS). After the incident, Mahto had no one to look after his business,” said a local resident, requesting anonymity.
The generator operator conceded that business was over, but strangely denied any association with Rakesh’s death. “My business was running on no-profit-no-loss basis and winding up had long been on my mind. Two days ago, I decided to do the same. I am not aware of any accident with my mechanic and the accident has nothing to take with the business,” he said.
The local resident countered Mahto, saying that Rakesh was close kin and staying with the generator operator since childhood. “He (Mahto) is in a state of shock,” the resident added.
The truth about Rakesh and Mahto’s relationship notwithstanding, both vegetable vendors at Harmu and their customers are bearing the brunt. Exigency has also made way for innovation. Bablu, a vegetable seller, has bought a solar lamp, while the woman vendor next to him is banking on a rechargeable lamp. Customers said it was difficult to pick and choose vegetables in the dark. A woman resident of Harmu also admitted that she was “afraid of visiting the vegetable market after sundown”.
Local councillor (ward No. 37) Arun Kumar Jha promised to take up the matter with state power authorities. “I will ask Jharkhand Urja Vikas Nigam officials if temporary connection can be provided to vendors. Security arrangements also need to be made in the market, which is groping in the dark,” Jha said.
Power mandarins didn’t sound as promising.
Subdivisional officer of Jharkhand Urja Vikas Nigam Limited Namit Kumar is sceptical over providing temporary connection and cited safety reasons.
“Proper wiring is not available at the market. Temporary power line cannot be given to vendors. However, once they shift to the new complex, which is almost complete, they will have all the power that they need,” he said.