The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Kids electrocuted at SEB camp

Raiganj, June 7: Two children were electrocuted at the administrative centre of the state electricity board here today.

The authorities have refused to accept responsibility for the incident, which occurred at one of the vacant staff quarters on the premises of the SEB office. The mother of one of the children is a trainee with the power major.

One-year-old Mampi Mahato and her cousin Shilpi Mahato (7) were found dead on the floor of a deserted room, which had a pedestal fan. Bluish tinges on the fingers and faces suggested electrocution. The bodies, however, were not touching the fan. The wire connecting the fan to the plug point did not have a plug and the switch was in the “off” mode.

Dulu Mahato, a member of a self-help group undergoing training to collect bills, had brought her daughter Mampi with her. Like other trainees, Dulu, too, had been staying at one of the rooms of the staff quarters. The SEB had supplied them with fans. Shilpi had accompanied her aunt Dulu to baby-sit Mampi. Though nobody knows when the tragedy occurred, the children were alone in the room for more than three hours. It was Dulu who first discovered their bodies at 2 pm, when she came to check on them during a break. At first glance, the children seemed to be asleep. But a closer look revealed the lifeless bodies.

An inconsolable Dulu said: “I joined the camp on May 15 so that I could earn for my family.” Dulu’s husband is a farmer who had not arrived from Kunor village, 21 km away, till the evening. “We had been telling the authorities to provide plugs for the table fans as naked wires are dangerous,” Dulu said.

Though circle manager of the board Dipen Chandra Dutta admitted that the deaths were because of electrocution, he made it clear that the SEB was not in any way responsible. “The incident is unfortunate no doubt, but we can’t be held responsible for it. Preliminary investigations do suggest electrocution. And as for the naked wire of the fan, it was supplied by a contractor against whom we have lodged a police complaint.”

As news of the twin deaths spread, Youth Congress members gheraoed the board’s office and demanded a thorough inquiry into the incident.

Confirming electrocution, divisional engineer of SEB Shivaprasad Laha said: “Usually, in the case of high tension wires, the person bleeds. But in cases like this, where the wires are low tension, the body turns blue and stiff.”

Laha said a decision regarding compensation would be taken later. “We have to see the autopsy and the inquiry reports first. Then only can we decide.”

North Dinajpur superintendent of police Swapan Banerjee Purnapatra said the bodies had been sent for post-mortem. “No arrests have been made,” he said.

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