| The ill-fated bus stranded at Banka. Picture by Amit Kumar |
Four pilgrims were electrocuted and many injured inside a luxury bus when it touched naked, overhead wires of 11,000 volts near Sahebganj market, in Belhar police station area, around 45km west of Banka district headquarters on Sunday.
The pilgrims, from Chas in Jharkhand’s Bokaro were on their way to Sultanganj from where they were to fetch river Ganga water before proceeding to Deoghar.
The bus carrying 50 kanwariyas, mostly coalmine workers, came in contact with the overhead wires around 11.35am. “We were very excited as we were nearing Sultanganj. Some in the group were singing bhajans. I was sitting near the window. Suddenly, I felt electric shocks. I immediately jumped on to my seat and confined myself there as it had an insulating plastic cover,” said survivor Banti Singh.
Others were not lucky. Naresh Singh (28), Manoj Singh (26), Amit Mishra (25) and Krishna Kumbhakar (27) were electrocuted while Madhu Ghatwar, Nitai Singh, Chotu Kalimbir, Robin Kalimbir and nine others suffered serious burn injuries.
Angry residents and some kanwariyas vented their ire against government machinery for the tragedy. They set the Sahebganj power grid on fire and blocked the Belhar-Sultanganj road near Sahebganj Chowk (blockade was on till filing of the report).
Belhar deputy superintendent of police Piyush Kant said the injured were shifted to Deoghar. Belhar police station house officer (SHO) Anil Paswan said the power grid station office at Sahebganj bore the brunt as agitating pilgrims stormed it, ransacked furniture and electrical equipment before torching it. The mob also blocked the Belhar-Sultanganj road at Sahebganj Chak.
Senior officials, including Banka district magistrate Saket Kumar and superintendent of police (SP) Satya Prakesh, rushed to placate the mob. “No one is ready to even listen to the officers. Due to the prolonged blockade, a large number of vehicles are stranded on the road usually full of pilgrim vehicles during Shravani Mela,” said Binay Kumar, a shopkeeper at Sahebganj.
Belhar’s former SHO Monoranjan Bharati said in his time, the district magistrate and other officials used to meet before Shravani Mela. “We used to get loose overhead wires fixed before the mela’s start.
Present SHO Paswan said similar meetings were held this time, too, but nobody came forward to rectify the faults.