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Project fence shock dilutes water dream

A project to develop round-the-clock water distribution network turned life-threatening for residents and cattle of Makdumpur till the implementing agency took corrective measures.

In the past four days, two boys received electric shocks and two cattle died of electrocution, ostensibly because a barbed wire fence had recently got electrified.

On Thursday morning, 13-year-old Vishal Rai, a resident of Makdumpur’s lane number 88, was grazing his father’s cow and buffalo, when the animals suddenly came in contact with the barbed wires and instantly died of electrocution.

Thereafter, a bewildered Vishal touched the wire and got an electric shock, which threw him away. On Tuesday too, Pravin Kumar (10) had accidentally touched the barbed wires and received an electric shock. In both cases, the boys were lucky to be alive.

Bihar Urban Infrastructure Development Corporation (BUIDCo) has been implementing the Rs 426.98-crore project that aims to develop a system, which would ensure that the residents get round-the-clock water supply. BUIDCo has awarded the contract to the consortium of Geo Miller & Company Private Limited and Gammon India Limited. Work has been on for the past two years. The barbed wire fence came up set up around eight months ago to separate the Makdumpur locality from the construction site.

Roshan Kumar Singh, a resident of Makdumpur, which has more than 500 homes, said: “The construction has been going on for a long time. However, the half-a-km barbed wire fence came up around eight months ago. Personnel at the site told us it was done for safety. Last week, live electric wires were made to pass through the barbed wires. On Tuesday, Pravin received an electric shock from the fence and so we got to know it was electrified. We reckoned that the wires had snapped somewhere and the electricity began flowing through the barbed wires. We spoke to the site officials and requested them to cut the electricity connection and remove the live wire. But they bluntly turned down our request, as if they didn’t care if people died.”

Vishal’s father, Ashok, who is into the milk business, said he had no idea that electricity was running through the iron fence. “My son goes there everyday and so do other children. There is an open field in front of the fence and people move along there and children play. Two of my cattle, which were worth almost Rs 80,000, were electrocuted yesterday (Thursday), while my son somehow came home staggering and narrated the entire incident to us. The electric wire has been carried along the barbed wires to run pumps and other machinery. Our neighbours had requested that the wire be removed from the iron fence. They have got wooden poles along the fence. They could use those poles to take the electric wires to the spots they desire. But they had refused to do that,” said Ashok.

Responding to the charge, BUIDCo officials admitted the fact, saying that it had been a “mistake” and that the contractors involved at the construction site had been at fault.

C.V. Tiwary, the project director for the BUIDCo project, said things have been rectified after the Thursday incident.

“Yes, the contractors had committed a mistake. Work is on and there are some machinery such as pumps, which need to run on electricity. The contractors should have ensured safety first. There are wooden poles along the fence and the electric wires could have been made to pass through them to reach the pump, rather than using the barbed wire fencing. The insulation over the electric wires might have worn out in the rain and come in contact with the barbed wire, causing electricity to flow throughout the fence. However, on getting information, we visited the spot and removed the electric wires. We have asked the contractors to ensure that such kind of mistakes are not repeated again,” added Tiwary.

WHIFF OF NEGLECT

Late-2013: A barbed wire fence set up around the construction site of the Patna water supply project

First week of July: Live electric wires to run pumps and other machinery made to pass through the barbed wire fence

July 8: Pravin Kumar (10) gets electric shock on touching the barbed wire fence at the project site

July 9: Makdumpur residents request site officials to shift the electric wires from the barbed wire fence to wooden posts but they refused to cooperate

July 10: A buffalo and a cow belonging to Ashok Rai come in contact with the barbed wires and die of electrocution. Ashok’s son, Vishal (13), touches fence and an electric shock throws him away.

BUIDCo asks the consortium of Geo Miller & Company Private Limited
and Gammon India Limited to shift the electric wires

Residentspeak: The electric wires might have snapped somewhere and electricity started passing through the barbed wires

BUIDCo claim: The insulation over the electric wires might have worn out in the rain and come in contact with the barbed wires, causing electricity to flow through it. Electric wires removed after Thursday incident and the contractor asked to prevent such recurrence